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  • How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

Published on February 12, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 28, 2022.

A personal statement is a short essay of around 500–1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you’re applying.

To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application , don’t just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to demonstrate three things:

This article guides you through some winning strategies to build a strong, well-structured personal statement for a master’s or PhD application. You can download the full examples below.

Urban Planning Psychology History

Attend one of our upcoming livestreams and have your draft reviewed by an admissions essay coach. We’ll tell you if you’re on the right track and explain how you can strengthen your case.

Want some extra inspiration? Watch recordings of past grad school essay livestreams.

Table of contents

Getting started with your personal statement, the introduction: start with an attention-grabbing opening, the main body: craft your narrative, the conclusion: look ahead, revising, editing, and proofreading your personal statement, frequently asked questions, want some extra inspiration.

Before you start writing, the first step is to understand exactly what’s expected of you. If the application gives you a question or prompt for your personal statement, the most important thing is to respond to it directly.

For example, you might be asked to focus on the development of your personal identity; challenges you have faced in your life; or your career motivations. This will shape your focus and emphasis—but you still need to find your own unique approach to answering it.

There’s no universal template for a personal statement; it’s your chance to be creative and let your own voice shine through. But there are strategies you can use to build a compelling, well-structured story.

The first paragraph of your personal statement should set the tone and lead smoothly into the story you want to tell.

Strategy 1: Open with a concrete scene

An effective way to catch the reader’s attention is to set up a scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. If you’re stuck, try thinking about:

To write an effective scene, try to go beyond straightforward description; start with an intriguing sentence that pulls the reader in, and give concrete details to create a convincing atmosphere.

Strategy 2: Open with your motivations

To emphasize your enthusiasm and commitment, you can start by explaining your interest in the subject you want to study or the career path you want to follow.

Just stating that it interests you isn’t enough: first, you need to figure out why you’re interested in this field:

Tips for the introduction

Once you’ve set up the main themes of your personal statement, you’ll delve into more detail about your experiences and motivations.

To structure the body of your personal statement, there are various strategies you can use.

Strategy 1: Describe your development over time

One of the simplest strategies is to give a chronological overview of key experiences that have led you to apply for graduate school.

Don’t try to include absolutely everything you’ve done—pick out highlights that are relevant to your application. Aim to craft a compelling narrative that shows how you’ve changed and actively developed yourself.

My interest in psychology was first sparked early in my high school career. Though somewhat scientifically inclined, I found that what interested me most was not the equations we learned about in physics and chemistry, but the motivations and perceptions of my fellow students, and the subtle social dynamics that I observed inside and outside the classroom. I wanted to learn how our identities, beliefs, and behaviours are shaped through our interactions with others, so I decided to major in Social Psychology. My undergraduate studies deepened my understanding of, and fascination with, the interplay between an individual mind and its social context.During my studies, I acquired a solid foundation of knowledge about concepts like social influence and group dynamics, but I also took classes on various topics not strictly related to my major. I was particularly interested in how other fields intersect with psychology—the classes I took on media studies, biology, and literature all enhanced my understanding of psychological concepts by providing different lenses through which to look at the issues involved.

Strategy 2: Own your challenges and obstacles

If your path to graduate school hasn’t been easy or straightforward, you can turn this into a strength, and structure your personal statement as a story of overcoming obstacles.

Don’t focus too heavily on negatives, but use them to highlight your positive qualities. Resilience, resourcefulness and perseverance make you a promising graduate school candidate.

Growing up working class, urban decay becomes depressingly familiar. The sight of a row of abandoned houses does not surprise me, but it continues to bother me. Since high school, I have been determined to pursue a career in urban planning. While people of my background experience the consequences of urban planning decisions first-hand, we are underrepresented in the field itself. Ironically, given my motivation, my economic background has made my studies challenging. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for my undergraduate studies, but after graduation I took jobs in unrelated fields to help support my parents. In the three years since, I have not lost my ambition. Now I am keen to resume my studies, and I believe I can bring an invaluable perspective to the table: that of the people most impacted by the decisions of urban planners.

Strategy 3: Demonstrate your knowledge of the field

Especially if you’re applying for a PhD or another research-focused program, it’s a good idea to show your familiarity with the subject and the department. Your personal statement can focus on the area you want to specialize in and reflect on why it matters to you.

The personal statement isn’t a research proposal , so don’t go overboard on detail—but it’s a great opportunity to show your enthusiasm for the field and your capacity for original thinking.

In applying for this research program, my intention is to build on the multidisciplinary approach I have taken in my studies so far, combining knowledge from disparate fields of study to better understand psychological concepts and issues. The Media Psychology program stands out to me as the perfect environment for this kind of research, given its researchers’ openness to collaboration across diverse fields. I am impressed by the department’s innovative interdisciplinary projects that focus on the shifting landscape of media and technology, and I hope that my own work can follow a similarly trailblazing approach. More specifically, I want to develop my understanding of the intersection of psychology and media studies, and explore how media psychology theories and methods might be applied to neurodivergent minds. I am interested not only in media psychology but also in psychological disorders, and how the two interact. This is something I touched on during my undergraduate studies and that I’m excited to delve into further.

Strategy 4: Discuss your professional ambitions

Especially if you’re applying for a more professionally-oriented program (such as an MBA), it’s a good idea to focus on concrete goals and how the program will help you achieve them.

Don’t just state the position you want to achieve. You should demonstrate that you’ve put plenty of thought into your career plans and show why you’re well-suited to this profession.

One thing that fascinated me about the field during my undergraduate studies was the sheer number of different elements whose interactions constitute a person’s experience of an urban environment. Any number of factors could transform the scene I described at the beginning: What if there were no bus route? Better community outreach in the neighborhood? Worse law enforcement? More or fewer jobs available in the area? Some of these factors are out of the hands of an urban planner, but without taking them all into consideration, the planner has an incomplete picture of their task. Through further study I hope to develop my understanding of how these disparate elements combine and interact to create the urban environment. I am interested in the social, psychological and political effects our surroundings have on our lives. My studies will allow me to work on projects directly affecting the kinds of working-class urban communities I know well. I believe I can bring my own experiences, as well as my education, to bear upon the problem of improving infrastructure and quality of life in these communities.

Tips for the main body

Your conclusion should bring the focus back to the program and what you hope to get out of it, whether that’s developing practical skills, exploring intellectual questions, or both.

Emphasize the fit with your specific interests, showing why this program would be the best way to achieve your aims.

Strategy 1: What do you want to know?

If you’re applying for a more academic or research-focused program, end on a note of curiosity: what do you hope to learn, and why do you think this is the best place to learn it?

If there are specific classes or faculty members that you’re excited to learn from, this is the place to express your enthusiasm.

Strategy 2: What do you want to do?

If you’re applying for a program that focuses more on professional training, your conclusion can look to your career aspirations: what role do you want to play in society, and why is this program the best choice to help you get there?

Tips for the conclusion

You’ll be expected to do a lot of writing in graduate school, so make a good first impression: leave yourself plenty of time to revise and polish the text.

Your style doesn’t have to be as formal as other kinds of academic writing, but it should be clear, direct and coherent. Make sure that each paragraph flows smoothly from the last, using topic sentences and transitions to create clear connections between each part.

Don’t be afraid to rewrite and restructure as much as necessary. Since you have a lot of freedom in the structure of a personal statement, you can experiment and move information around to see what works best.

Finally, it’s essential to carefully proofread your personal statement and fix any language errors. Before you submit your application, consider investing in professional personal statement editing . For $150, you have the peace of mind that your personal statement is grammatically correct, strong in term of your arguments, and free of awkward mistakes.

A statement of purpose is usually more formal, focusing on your academic or professional goals. It shouldn’t include anything that isn’t directly relevant to the application.

A personal statement can often be more creative. It might tell a story that isn’t directly related to the application, but that shows something about your personality, values, and motivations.

However, both types of document have the same overall goal: to demonstrate your potential as a graduate student and s how why you’re a great match for the program.

The typical length of a personal statement for graduate school applications is between 500 and 1,000 words.

Different programs have different requirements, so always check if there’s a minimum or maximum length and stick to the guidelines. If there is no recommended word count, aim for no more than 1-2 pages.

If you’re applying to multiple graduate school programs, you should tailor your personal statement to each application.

Some applications provide a prompt or question. In this case, you might have to write a new personal statement from scratch: the most important task is to respond to what you have been asked.

If there’s no prompt or guidelines, you can re-use the same idea for your personal statement – but change the details wherever relevant, making sure to emphasize why you’re applying to this specific program.

If the application also includes other essays, such as a statement of purpose , you might have to revise your personal statement to avoid repeating the same information.

During our livestream sessions, we invite students to submit their personal statement drafts and receive live feedback from our essay coaches. Check out recordings of our past sessions:

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How to Write a Personal Statement for a PhD Program Application

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



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

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Writing the Personal Statement

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

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

What does this statement need to accomplish?

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

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

What kinds of content belongs here?

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

The basic message: your academic achievement despite challenges

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


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

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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.

Specific Examples

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

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

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

Strong Writing

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

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

Appropriate Boundaries

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

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

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


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:

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:

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:


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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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:

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

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

What’s Next?

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

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

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

Need stellar graduate school recommendation letters ? See our guide.

See our 29 tips for successfully applying to graduate school .

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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

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

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

How to write a personal statement for grad school

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

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

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

What Is a Personal Statement?

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

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

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Personal Statement

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

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.

PhD Personal Statements

PhD Personal Statements

Updated October 1, 2021

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

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

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

What Is a PhD Personal Statement?

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

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

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

What Should a PhD Personal Statement Contain?

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

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

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

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

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

1. Why You Want to Do This PhD

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

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

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

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

2. How Your Work Will Benefit the University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Why You Are the Best Candidate

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

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

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

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

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

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

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

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

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

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

6. Any Explanations for Lower Grades (If Applicable)

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

7. Your Future Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Structure Your Personal Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Was this article helpful?

You might also be interested in these other WikiJob articles:

What Is a Postgraduate Degree?

Or explore the Postgraduate / PHD sections.

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

Personal Statement Blogs

January 21st, 2023

How to Write an Impressive Ph.D. Personal Statement in 2023? Everything You Should Know

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

PhD is one the highest academic qualifications in a specific domain or field. Getting PhD admission will require you to prove your skills, qualification, aptitudes, and experiences for the same through a personal statement.

This post shines light on everything you need to know about PhD personal statement.

If you are preparing for PhD admission, the information shared in this blog would help you in writing a winning PhD personal statement.

What Is a Ph.D. Personal Statement?

A PhD personal statement is a document that has to be included in the application for PhD admission. It demonstrates your fitness to be considered for a particular postgraduate research program.

Why Is a PhD Personal Statement So Important?

Your PhD project is going to be a unique one. Institutes want to know how capable you are to complete this project. They read your personal statement for the same. Your PhD personal statement does the following jobs.


Five Key Areas to Be Thorough with Before Attempting Your PhD Personal Statement

Be familiar with the guidelines, have a clear picture of what to include, know what tone to use in the writeup, know the five basic questions to address, understand how to structure your ph.d. personal statement, be familiar with the guidelines.

Though all personal statements are similar in nature, a general approach in writing your PhD personal statement would backfire. You need to draft your writeup in total compliance with the university guidelines or country conventions. This will give your writeup much more mileage and attention from selectors.

Have A Clear Picture of What to Include

Make sure to include the following points in your PhD personal statement without failure.

Know What Tone to Use in The Writeup

PhD personal statement is a crucial document in your application and is going to be read closely by your selectors. So, the tone of writing should be well balanced – formal but not too formal and engaging to read but not too colloquial.

Know the Five Basic Questions to Address

Why do you wish to undertake additional research in this particular field.

List down your reasons or motivations for undertaking further studies in the chosen field and explain how you became interested in the field.

Why this particular university and country?

Explain what attracts you to this university and the country, for instance a unique curriculum, availability of a specific research program etc.

What qualities and strengths do you possess that make you an ideal fit?

Show how you are or can be different from all other applicants. List down your achievements, skills, creative ideas etc. with supporting information.

What transferrable skills do you possess?

Your transferrable skills such as time management, communication, leadership etc. give you more weightage. Talk about them and show how they helped you in the past.

How does this program live up to your expectations and match your goals?

Give a rough picture of how you are planning to steer your career in the future and how your PhD in the specific field is going to support you in that.

How Long Should a Personal Statement Be for a Ph.D.?

Comply with the wordcount that is recommended by your chosen university . Do not exceed it or run too short of it.

Your PhD personal statement can be approximately about one or two pages if written using the standard font size and line spacing.

Number of paragraphs

Divide your personal statement into multiple paragraphs. 6 to 7 paragraphs are ideal, including introduction and conclusion.

Introductory Paragraph

Begin your personal statement with an apt introductory paragraph that triggers the readers curiosity and sets the context. It should show how your academic interest got ignited.

Body Paragraphs

Allocate one paragraph each to speak about various points such as academic background, professional experience, future plans etc. This will allow the reader to locate specific points more easily.

Concluding Paragraph

Avoid cliched sentences in the conclusion. It is better to be original. Conclude by giving the summary of the points in one or two sentence and thanking the selectors for considering your application.

How to Write PhD Personal Statement In 6 Steps?

Follow the below instructions on how to write a good PhD personal statement for making a winning writeup for your postgraduate research admission.

Gather all relevant points you should include in your PhD personal statement.

Prepare an outline for your personal statement. Refer reliable samples for insights.

Prepare the first draft. Do not spend too much time for picking the right words or sentence beauty at this stage.

Improve the first draft by proofreading several times, correcting mistakes, replacing sentences or words etc.

Get your personal statement reviewed by one or two people and seek their feedback.

Incorporate their suggestions into the final copy. Do a final cross-checking to ensure compliance of all requirements.

Read more here on personal statements:

PhD Personal Statement Example

Referring to a well-written personal statement sample would help you understand its structure well.

Personal Statement for Ph.D

As a literature student, I always had an interest in reading historical fiction. As a history lover, I never leave a chance to read about my county’s past. I believe historical fiction is the greatest way to study history of a particular time. Applying theories like New Historicism can help us understand various societal dimensions of a particular society. As Louis Montrose has pointed out New Historicism is the textuality of history and historicity of text. New Historicism helps us understand an age more clearly and precisely.

I am a post graduate in English Language and Literature who specialized in British Literature. My specialization in British Literature helped me to dive deeply into Anglo Saxon Poetry and Chaucerian poetry. Historical pieces like Canterbury Tales and Beowulf are prominent poetries of a particular age which help us understand the past. As a British Literature major, I have also read many post colonial and regional literature. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a prominent historical piece of African people which clearly depicts the life of Igbo people in pre-colonial Africa. Both my undergraduate and postgraduate degree projects revolved around historical fiction and I wish to engage in historical fiction even for my Ph.D research. As a prerequisite for my research career, I have started publishing in several journals.

With this research I intend to apply the theory of New Historicism on prominent historical novels and analyse a particular society with the available history over them. I am sure my choice of world war fiction will be good to analyze the after effect of two deadliest wars on people which would be far greater than what is mentioned in the historical text. I wish to learn more about a particular society mentioned in the novel, through field study, referring journals, etc. I am sure this attempt can throw light upon existing the history of this society.

In terms of a career, after the successful doctoral studies and research, I foresee myself teaching literature, writing criticism, and engaging myself in editing or publishing articles. As my specialization is in historical fiction, I wish to engage in an interdisciplinary approach and contribute both to the study of English Literature and History as well. I am sure this Doctoral studies will prove to be valuable to me in several ways. The teaching assistance offered by this program would give me practical exposure. Earning a Ph.D in British and American English Literature would give me the expertise in both branches of literature. I also don’t plan to end my quest in literature with this post doctoral research, instead, I will try to try my hands in Indian and post colonial literature as well and try to conduct research on the same. I am sure this research would leverage my existing skills and equip myself for my future research career. With this program, I can give wings to my professional career and ignite my academic skills.

Remember These Basic Guidelines While Writing Your PhD Personal Statement

Follow these basic guidelines on how to write a PhD personal statement while making your document.

Customize each writeup

If you are planning to apply at different universities, customize your personal statement for PhD for each of those institutes.

Start early

You may require more time than you think to write a comprehensive and perfect PhD personal statement. So, start early.

Keep zero tolerance to mistakes

PhD is the highest qualification in a given discipline. You can’t apply for it with a document full of mistakes.

Honesty is the key

Being honest in your personal statement will certainly add uniqueness to it and allow the reader to develop more emotional connection.

Show your confidence

Do not write your personal statement as if you are confused. Write it confidently so your selector will know it.

Top 10 Universities for Doing PhD

You can do PhD in any university but doing it from the world’s best universities will add more value to your qualification. Here is a list of top ten universities in the world for doing PhD.

Popular PhD Specializations

You can do PhD in your interested field of research. There are universities that offer it all over the world. Take a look at the most common PhD specializations.

Before We Wrap Up…

Considering its top ranking in the academic ladder, you must always try to draft an outstanding personal statement for your PhD application.

In this blog, we have covered everything you need to know regarding a PhD personal statement and how to write PhD personal statement.

If you still have any doubts or want to share your feedback on this with us, you are most welcome to share them in the comments section below.

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

About Mrs Jizah M

Mrs Jisha has always enjoyed writing down her thoughts since school days. What just started as a hobby slowly transformed into a passion. Her writing skills were first acknowledged by few of her professors when she wrote content for the college website; this was a turing. Slowly she started getting freelance works and later on, a series of events led her to specialize in academic and higher education related documentations. In additional to personal statements, she along with her team writes LORs, SOPs, college application essays, admission essays and all similar types of documents.

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></center></p><ul><li>Proofreading Services</li><li>SOP Writing Services</li><li>Resume Writing Services</li></ul><h2>Personal Statement</h2><p>How to write a phd personal statement – a guide with example.</p><ul><li>January 25, 2023</li></ul><h2>Share this article</h2><p>Writing services.</p><ul><li>Admission Essay Writing Service</li><li>Personal Statement Writing Service</li><li>LOR Writing Service</li><li>Motivation Letter Writing Service</li><li>SOP Writing Service</li><li>Proofreading Service</li><li>Letter Writing Service</li></ul><h2>Table of Contents</h2><p>Are you eying a Ph.D. in your favourite domain? </p><p>Be reminded that your luck of getting a seat for the doctoral program at your favourite institute depends on a few criteria including a PhD personal statement. </p><p>Universities have fewer seats for Ph.D. but they receive several times more the number of applications than what they could accommodate. </p><p>By writing a very unique and compelling personal statement, you can beat all the odds. </p><p>Through this blog, you will learn: </p><ul><li>What to write in a Phd personal statement? </li><li>How to write a bespoke Ph.D. personal statement </li><li>A few Ph.D. personal statement examples to help you understand it better</li></ul><h2>What Is a PhD Personal Statement?</h2><p>A PhD personal statement is a document that will equip you to convey your motivation, future plans and what makes you the right fit into the PhD program you are applying to. </p><p>In other words, it serves as a self introduction for PhD applications. </p><h2>Who Will Review Your Personal Statement for PhD Application?</h2><p>When you apply for a PhD program, your application, including your personal statement for PhD admission, will be reviewed by various people.</p><h2>Interview panel:</h2><p>The panel that will be present for the face-to-face interview with you will go through your PhD supporting statement beforehand and prepare some of the interview questions from it. </p><p>The supervisor under whom you will do the PhD will go through your personal statement to determine your motivations for choosing the particular academic domain.</p><h2>Admission committee:</h2><p>The shortlisting of your application is done by the admission committee. They will go through your personal statement carefully to know how suitable you are for the program and what makes you more suitable from other applicants. </p><h2>Why Are You Required to Write a Personal Statement for PhD?</h2><p>It is mandatory to write a doctoral personal statement as most of the doctoral programs would ask for it from the applicants. Given the weight that doctoral programs carry, applicants need to approach writing personal statements for it from a different angle than how they did write their graduate or postgraduate level personal statement. Institutes would consider only applicants with a serious take on the doctoral program that they are offering.</p><h2>How Long Is a Personal Statement for PhD Programs?</h2><p>You can write a personal statement for a doctoral program in about 500 words or 2500 characters. Some universities would specify how many words they expect candidates to write for their personal statement. It is advisable to follow if any such guidelines are given to you. </p><h2>How to Write a PhD Personal Statement? What To Include and Expert Guidelines</h2><p>When it comes to writing a PhD personal statement, the two important things that you must keep in mind are what to include in it and how to structure your points. </p><h2>What Should You Include in Your Personal Statement for PhD Application Pdf?</h2><p>Here is a list of points that should be talked about in your personal statement for the doctoral program. </p><ul><li>What makes you want to do a PhD in this specific field/discipline/subject? </li><li>What are your motivations for choosing this particular university to do the PhD research</li><li>What do you consider your strengths as a PhD aspirant? </li><li>What do you regard as your notable transferable skills? </li><li>How will this program benefit your career aspirations? </li><li>What are your expectations from this doctoral research?</li></ul><h2>How to Write a Personal Statement for PhD? Expert Guidelines</h2><p>Here are five expert guidelines for writing a PhD personal statement.</p><h2>Read university instructions:</h2><p>Verify whether your university is asking you to write a personal statement in a certain way. If not, refer to the aforementioned prompts and personal statement for the PhD application sample given and compose your document.</p><h2>Pick relevant points to include:</h2><p>For each prompt, you may have lots of things to say but you can’t say everything due to the restricted length of your personal statement. So, cherry-pick the most relevant points for your write-up. </p><h2>Read about your chosen field:</h2><p>Read as much as you can and enhance your knowledge about the particular field you want to do a PhD. These insights will help you write a convincing and powerful motivation as in the personal statement for PhD program examples.</p><h2>Write the first draft:</h2><p>Once you have all the details ready to speak of in the personal statement, begin working on your first draft. Don’t overthink when you write the first draft. Allow the natural flow of writing to continue as long as it goes.</p><h2>Proofread and finalize:</h2><p>Read the first draft several times and improvise each section of it. Once finished, proofread carefully with an eye out for spelling and grammar mistakes, readability, logical flow, etc.</p><h2>Best PHD Personal Statement Example</h2><p>Reading this PhD personal statement example coupled with the guidelines given above will give you more clarity with regard to how to start and proceed with your document.</p><p>I feel lucky to have got the opportunity to apply for this doctorate program. In the competitive world, just a handful of students get the opportunity to complete their intermediates with impressive grades. Even fewer get admission to esteemed universities like yours to pursue their graduation. Born and raised in a progressive economy like India, I have witnessed the disparity in the privilege of quality education. Over the years, I have incessantly strived to embrace a research-oriented career. The experiences that I have gone through largely moulded my interests, and eventually prompted me to pursue this PhD program in Operations Research.</p><p>It was back in 2012 that I completed two research internships during my Bachelor’s program at Reliance Industries. Besides, as a part of student exchange programs, I got the opportunity to work at the LEPP (Laboratory for Elementary-Particle Physics). My interest deeply revolved around particle trajectories present in electromagnetic fields. During this time, I published a research paper in an international journal. This was titled ‘Emittance & Phase-space Distributions of Electron Bunches in Energy Recovery LINAC’. It was at a LEPP seminar that I published this paper. Prior to my Masters in Operational Research, I had completed my graduation in Engineering Physics from Delhi University in India. Channelizing my mathematical interests and the inclination to natural laws that guide interaction of particles, I have decided to carry out further research in this field.</p><p>It was a pleasure for me to carry out research at AIIMS based on Plasma Studies. It was here that I explored the impact of etching techniques based on thin-wire on the uniform expansion of plasma. Eventually, I also worked on software that was capable of evaluating multi-wire experiments. It was in 2012 that I was initially introduced to Operations Research. At first, I studied the Simplex method. As I gathered more knowledge on the subject, I came across an apparently simple algorithm. I gained a reputation in our college for being able to resolve real-world problems in a quick time. Over time, I thought over the matter and drew certain parallels that shared similarities to certain concepts in Physics. I also came across an astonishing similarity between linear programming and Lagrangian multipliers, which was handy in finding the extrema of constrained functions.</p><p>Next, I started focusing on operations research, as I progressed with my Bachelor’s program in Physics. In 2013, I decided to acquire some practical experience in the application of field tools in the domain of finance. I reached out to the Bajaj Finance Group for an internship. It was here that I worked on an application for smoothening the time series. Besides, I deployed a Kalman filter that could validate the estimates showing the volatilities of varying times. At the end of this internship, I presented this work to my peers and professors. I was overcome with joy by their positive attitude to my efforts. It was here that my interest to teach students got kindled. That particular year, I returned to college as a senior. Eventually, I got the opportunity to serve as a facilitator for Calculus at the Academic Excellence Workshop. Later, I also taught Linear Algebra to the students. During these weekly interactions with students, I used to help them solve challenging problems related to their coursework. It was a gratifying experience for me to teach students and resolve problems for them.</p><p>Considering my academic excellence, I received a fellowship after my Master’s program. I integrated myself as an assistant teaching faculty, teaching Spreadsheet-based modelling at one of the colleges affiliated with Delhi University. During this time, I decided to go for a Master’s program in Operations Research and joined Cornell University. During the summer internship, I got an opportunity to work at Milcord LLC as a quantitative developer. Located in Boston, this company specializes in knowledge management through geospatial intelligence processing. I was responsible for developing belief-network models that were capable of predicting geographic fluctuations in the insurgency. The system could also prototype dynamic risk avoidance. Through this experience, I was able to grasp the extent to which the industry is dependent on academics to gain insights and resolve complicated issues. This explains why I went for coursework to study Service Systems Modeling and Discrete Models. Now that I am well-versed in these aspects of research, I look forward to pursuing the PhD program in Operations Research from your revered university in the US. A research-oriented academic career will enable me to contribute fervently to the learning environment at your university, as I streamline my career.</p><h2>10 Professional Tips for Writing a Successful Personal Statement for PhD Application</h2><p>The following ten curated tips will help improve your personal statement and make it stronger, impeccable and sure to win. </p><p>Try to incorporate them as much as possible while writing. </p><h2>Customize your statement:</h2><p>A PhD personal statement that is customized for the program and the institute will receive quicker attention from the selection panel. </p><h2>Focus on relevant points:</h2><p>Don’t load your personal statement with too many points but pick the most relevant ones that align with the program and focus on them. </p><h2>Be truthful to yourself:</h2><p>Nothing spoils a personal statement as much as a dishonest point does. You may stay away from writing anything that doesn’t represent you.</p><h2>Make it personal:</h2><p>Reading a personal statement for PhD program, the selection committee should feel that it’s a true reflection of you.</p><h2>Write a catchy introduction:</h2><p>The introduction of your personal statement PhD does a great role. It makes the reader decide whether to read your document fully or not. </p><h2>Write a reminiscing conclusion:</h2><p>Consider the conclusion of your personal statement as the takeaway that you want the reader to leave with. </p><h2>Allocate enough time:</h2><p>Though it’s only about 500 words, you can’t write a winning personal statement in one hour. You need to allocate at least a week’s time to write and perfect it.</p><h2>Be mindful of mistakes:</h2><p>It is normal to overlook mistakes while writing but not advisable to leave them as they are in the final draft. Do away with all grammatical and spelling mistakes. </p><h2>Seek a second opinion:</h2><p>We strongly recommend you request someone else, a colleague or an expert, to read your personal statement and give you constructive feedback.</p><h2>Finalize and submit on time:</h2><p>It is recommended to get ready with your personal statement and other documents in time and file the application a couple of days before the last date.</p><h2>Checklist to Validate Your Personal Statement for PhD Application</h2><p>So, you have finished writing your personal statement. </p><p>Before you file your PhD application, here is a checklist to validate your personal statement against. Make sure your document checks all those checkboxes just like in the PhD goals statement examples we have shown you. </p><ul><li>Have you talked about all the relevant points? </li><li>Have you formatted your personal statement correctly? </li><li>Have you proofread for one last time? </li><li>Does your personal statement strictly adhere to the recommended word limit? </li><li>Does your personal statement use a recommended structure?</li></ul><h2>Look at the Suggested Timeline and Writing Process</h2><p>Given that most universities begin accepting Ph.D. applications in December, here we share with you a rough timeline to help you get ready with your application and Ph.D. personal statement. </p><p>If your university’s application due date is different, modify the timeline accordingly. </p><h2>Personal Statement for the Most Popular PhD Programs</h2><p>You can do a PhD in any discipline that you are interested in. </p><p>One of the criteria for your PhD application approval is going to be your personal statement. </p><p>So, write a tailor-made document for your respective program that is as perfect as the PhD personal statement sample pdf we have included in this blog. </p><p>Here is a list of personal statements for the most popular PhD programs. </p><ul><li>Personal Statement for PhD in Education</li><li>Personal Statement for PhD in Biomedical Science</li><li>Personal Statement for PhD in Computer Science</li><li>Personal Statement for PhD in Finance</li><li>Personal Statement for PhD in Management</li><li>Personal Statement for PhD in Molecular Biology</li></ul><h2>Top 10 Universities to Choose for Your PhD</h2><p>Getting your Ph.D. from the world’s best universities will boost your career prospects. </p><p>Here is a list of the top 10 universities in the world for PhD. </p><ul><li>University of Oxford</li><li>Harvard University</li><li>Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)</li><li>Princeton University</li><li>Johns Hopkins University</li><li>California Institute of Technology </li><li>Stanford University</li><li>University of Cambridge</li><li>University of Chicago</li><li>Imperial College London</li></ul><h2>Best Countries to Pursue Doctoral Programs</h2><p>There are several countries to choose from to do your PhD. </p><p>You may decide where to do your doctoral program after considering a few factors such as the cost, the availability of the research program in your domain, and the factors that make the country ideal for your particular PhD field. </p><p>The following list only includes the top 10 countries as per the latest surveys. </p><ul><li>Ph.D. in USA</li><li>Ph.D. in Canada </li><li>Ph.D. in UK</li><li>Ph.D. in Switzerland </li><li>Ph.D. in Germany </li><li>Ph.D. in Australia </li><li>Ph.D. in Ireland </li><li>Ph.D. in New Zealand </li><li>PhD in France </li><li>Ph.D. in Austria</li></ul><h2>How to Apply for a Ph.D.? Step-By-Step Process for Your Help</h2><p>Here is the step-by-step process for applying for your preferred Ph.D. program. </p><ul><li>Decide what you want to focus on in a specific field and finalize your topic </li><li>Choose between the right kind of PhD program for you – predesigned or self-designed </li><li>Finalize a university where you want to do the PhD </li><li>Review the requirements and check your eligibility</li><li>If you are eligible, proceed to the next step. </li><li>Prepare your application with all required documents including your PhD personal statement.</li><li>File your application</li><li>If you want to apply for a scholarship while doing your PhD, don’t forget to write a personal statement for PhD scholarship as well and file your application accordingly. </li></ul><h2>That Brings Us to The End. Before We Wind Up…</h2><p>Before we conclude, we would like to ask you a few things. </p><p>Have you found this blog useful? </p><p>Are you confident to write a PhD personal statement?</p><p>By carefully following the tips and guidelines discussed in this blog, you should be.</p><p>In case you have got anything to clarify with us or want us to include more doctoral personal statement examples we are ready to help you further. </p><p>You can leave any of your doubts or questions or concerns in the comments below. </p><p><center><img style=

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Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School

Personal Statements

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

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

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

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Written by Mark Bennett

Universities often ask prospective students to provide a personal statement for PhD study. This is likely to be a key part of your PhD application .

Whereas your research proposal explains the potential of your project, your personal statement (also known as a PhD statement of purpose) demonstrates your suitability for doctoral work in general.

Writing a PhD personal statement can seem challenging, but it’s also a valuable opportunity to state what you have to offer and ‘sell yourself’ as a PhD candidate.

This page explains what a PhD statement needs to cover, suggests an effective structure and provides some additional tips for success.

On this page

What is a phd statement for.

A personal statement provides additional information on a PhD applicant’s academic background, relevant experience and motivations for undertaking postgraduate research.

It is different from a PhD proposal , which outlines a particular research topic, explaining its aims, methodology and scholarly or scientific value.

Put simply, if a PhD is a unique individual project (and it is) then your personal statement shows that you’re the kind of unique individual who can complete one.

The form it takes can vary. Universities may include a space for a personal statement in their application materials, or they might ask you to submit it as a separate document or in place of a covering letter . Make sure you check what’s required before you start writing.

Will I have to write a personal statement for a PhD programme?

Not necessarily. Some PhD applications don’t actually ask for a separate personal statement. This may be because the admissions tutors want to focus on your research proposal instead (and leave other details for interview questions ).

A personal statement is very likely to be requested if you you’re applying to an advertised project with pre-defined aims and objectives (and aren’t submitting your own PhD proposal). If so, it will be your main chance to say why you’re the best student for this position.

Who will read it?

Your PhD statement may end up being read and considered by various people:

These people will be interested in slightly different things, but don’t worry: a good statement should be able to satisfy all of them.

What is a PhD statement of purpose?

If you’re applying for a PhD programme at an American grad school , you may be asked to provide a ‘PhD statement of purpose’.

A PhD statement of purpose (SOP) is your chance to demonstrate that you’re an ideal fit for the grad school in question.

It’s essentially the equivalent of a personal statement, but you should check the application details for your preferred institution to make sure you’re covering everything you need to. Always follow the conventions of the country that your prospective programme is in.

What should my PhD personal statement include?

The exact content of your PhD statement of purpose will depend on the kind of project you’re applying for and the requirements set by your university.

You should check the latter carefully. If the admission guidelines ask for your personal statement to refer to specific details (such as motivations, career goals, your choice of university, etc) make sure it does.

In general, your PhD statement should cover the following topics:

1. Your background

Keep this relevant (and fairly brief). Admissions tutors and supervisors will be interested in what’s brought you to choose a PhD, but they won’t need to know your life story (and you won’t have time to tell it to them).

If your interest in your subject was inspired in childhood, feel free to say so. But focus on the interest, not the childhood.

2. Why you want to research a / this PhD

Every personal statement needs to explain your motivation for taking on a PhD, but what you include here will depend on the kind of PhD you want to take on.

If you’re also submitting a separate research proposal you should probably focus more on why you want to research a PhD than the specific topic you’re proposing to research (that, after all, is what your research proposal is for).

If you’re applying for an advertised project (and not proposing your own research) you should say something about your interest in that PhD: what interests you about it and what you can bring to it.

3. Academic experience

Your personal statement isn’t a CV, so avoid simply listing qualifications you’ve detailed elsewhere in your application (on your CV , for example).

But your personal statement is a chance to comment on your CV and explain the significance of those qualifications for your PhD application. This is vital if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Most PhD applicants are academically excellent. Be proud of your own results, but explain what those degrees (including specific units and dissertation projects) taught you about the subject you now want to research.

4. Extra-curricular experience

Another way to build upon your academic qualifications is to include other experience that has also demonstrated (or developed) relevant skills for your PhD.

Again, relevance is key. You may also wish to include one or two examples of your wider experience and achievements, but the focus should be on your suitability for PhD study.

Examples of your character and qualities may be relevant for some projects – particularly those with a charitable focus, human-interest angle or clear social benefits / outcomes. Otherwise, try to stick to relevant skills such as organisation, independent project management, self-motivation, etc.

5. Your broader goals and motivations

It’s a good idea to say something about how this PhD fits into your wider aims and career goals.

The specifics of what you plan to do after your doctorate may not matter to your admissions tutors, but the fact that you have plans and can show that a PhD fits them demonstrates that you’ve thought seriously about a doctorate and are likely to commit to overcoming the challenges it involves.

6. Other areas or issues arising from your CV

Your personal statement is a great opportunity to expand upon your CV.

That could mean providing more detail about academic degrees (as above). But it can also mean explaining any gaps or irregularities and anticipating some of the questions they might raise.

Perhaps you didn’t do as well as you hoped on your undergraduate degree, but went on to find your niche and succeed with a more specialised Masters. It’s OK to acknowledge and explain that if so – particularly if your Masters relates closely to your PhD.

Similarly, if there’s a gap in your CV, it’s better to explain it than leave any begged questions – particularly if there’s a perfectly good reason why you weren’t working or studying at that point.

Learn more about PhD applications

There are several components of a PhD application , besides your personal statement or statement of purpose. Our guides cover references , research proposals , academic CVs , cover letters and more.

How should I write my PhD personal statement?

Crafting a good PhD personal statement requires discipline and planning.

Writing about yourself may not seem particularly hard, but selecting, sequencing and organising your material can be harder than it seems. You know a lot about you, after all, but you only have so much time and space. Speaking of which:

How long should a PhD personal statement be?

A PhD personal statement should be 400-500 words, fitting on one side of an A4 sheet of paper. Your university may set a specific word count or maximum length, so make sure to check the application details.

Either way, you should aim to be disciplined and concise. There are two reasons for this:

One is that the ability to think – and express yourself – clearly is a key PhD skill in all subject areas. There’s no harm in demonstrating it now.

The other is that admissions tutors and prospective supervisors are people. People who may well have a lot of personal statements and applications to assess, besides yours. If you give them a long essay to read, they might not.

How should I structure my statement?

The sequence above actually provides a good ‘spine’ for a personal statement (with roughly a paragraph or two for each section):

Start with a quick introduction, explaining who you are and what your background is. Try to have this progress naturally into your research interests and your choice of PhD and university.

From there you can move on, logically, to expanding on your skills and experience and how these make you a good fit for the PhD in question. If you wish to comment on other areas of your CV, do so at appropriate points here.

Finally, you can conclude with a section on your longer-term goals and aspirations.

What writing style should I use?

The ‘personal’ aspect of your statement should extend to its content (it’s a document about you) but not necessarily to its tone (it’s also a professional document, part of an application for a specific role).

That doesn’t mean you can’t express yourself (your reader will want to see that you’re passionate about your subject and enthusiastic about PhD research) but keep things professional and relevant.

These guidelines should also extend to way you write. Try to stick to short sentences and express yourself with clarity and precision. After all, a personal statement that’s easy to read is more likely to be read.

Tips for writing your PhD personal statement

Some of the ingredients for a great PhD statement vary from project to project and from student to student (it’s a personal statement, after all).

But the following general tips are still worth bearing in mind:

Finally, before you submit your statement (and the rest of your PhD application ) ask someone who knows you to read it. They could be a friend, an employer, a current tutor or even one of your referees .

Either way, they’ll have a fresh perspective on your statement and will be able to tell you if it makes sense and comes across effectively. If they know you (and your work) well enough they may also be able to spot any details you’ve missed, or suggest ways to improve what you have included.

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

Grade Point Average (GPA) is one of the most common grading methods worldwide. In this guide, we cover how GPA works, when it matters for PhD applicants, and how it compares to some other grading systems around the world.

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

The Ivy League is a group of eight prestigious, high-ranking universities in the USA. Find out more about PhD study at an Ivy League university and how you can earn a place!

Integrated PhD programmes consist of a one-year Masters followed by three years of PhD research. Find out more about what it's like to study an integrated PhD, how to apply and the funding options available.

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

Thinking of applying for the Doctor of Engineering (EngD)? Our guide covers everything you need to know about the qualification, including costs, applications, programme content, and how it differs from a PhD.

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Writing Your Personal Statements

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

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

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

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

Vannessa Velez's portrait

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

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

— Vannessa Velez, PhD candidate in History

Addressing weaknesses or unusual aspects

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

Jaime Fine's portrait

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

— Jamie Fine, PhD candidate in Modern Thought and Literature


Statement of Purpose: subtle aspects

Stanford University

© Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305

Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School

[geo-in-name] 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

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.

Purdue University Global

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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EECS Communication Lab

Graduate School Statement of Purpose

Criteria for success.

Your statement of purpose, sometimes referred to by other names including “statement of objectives” or (rarely) “personal statement” should…

Structure Diagram

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

The graduate school statement of purpose should strengthen your chance of acceptance into a graduate program by demonstrating that you are a good match for the particular department or program. Matching goes both ways: they should be interested in you, and you should be interested in them. Your statement should make this match clear by telling your personal story as a researcher.

Analyze Your Audience

Your statement of purpose is typically read by a graduate committee, a handful of faculty from your program. They’re trying to determine if you will be a successful graduate student in their department, a positive force in the department’s intellectual life, and a successful researcher after you graduate. They are therefore interested in your qualifications as a researcher, your career goals, and how your academic focus matches their labs and department.

The graduate committee could read hundreds of applications a year. To make it easy for them to figure out that you are a good fit, make direct, concrete statements about your accomplishments and qualifications. To make it easy for them to remember you, create a narrative that “brands” you.

Create a personal narrative

PhD programs invest in the professional and technical growth of their students. Get the committee excited about investing in you by opening your essay with a brief portrait of what drives you as a scientist or engineer. What research directions are you passionate about, and why? What do you picture yourself doing in 10 years?

If you’re not quite sure what you want to do in graduate school, it’s still best to focus on a specific area or topic in your application. What would you work on if you had to start graduate school tomorrow? You can always change your research focus later.

Any personal stories should fit in the overall narrative of your research story. Avoid cliche openings like “ever since my childhood, I’ve been fascinated by…”. The statement of purpose, sometimes called a personal statement, is “personal” in the sense that it tells your unique research story, not your life story.  

Close your essay with a 2-3 sentence discussion of your career interests. No one will hold you to these plans; it simply helps your committee visualize your potential trajectory. Emphasize how the program you are applying to will help prepare you for these long-term goals.

Describe your experiences

Experiences are the “what” of your essay. What experiences led you to develop your skill set and passions? Where have you demonstrated accomplishment, leadership, and collaboration? Include research, teaching, and relevant work experience or extracurriculars. State concrete achievements and outcomes like awards, publications, or projects completed.

Achievements do not need to be directly tied to research projects or publications. However, they should relate to the type of work you expect in graduate school. For example, you can discuss significant, research-oriented class projects. Describe any collaborations with senior students or faculty that demonstrate your passion about relevant research topics. Computer science students can discuss projects from software internships that involved architecture design, algorithm design, security considerations, machine learning, etc. These experiences can inform your academic interests and demonstrate ability as well as more formal research experience. Also consider including experiences that demonstrate other skills that are crucial for a successful grad student such as good communication and self-motivation. 

Quantify your experiences to show concrete impact. How many people were on your team? How many protocols did you develop? How many people were in competition for an award? As a TA, how often did you meet with your students?

Describe actions, not just changes in your internal mental or emotional state. A statement of purpose is a way to make a narrative out of your CV. It is not a diary entry

Explain the meaning of your experiences

Meaning is the “why” or “so what” of the document. Why was this experience important to your growth as a researcher? What does it say about your abilities and potential? It feels obvious to you, but you need to be explicit with your audience. Your descriptions of meaning should also act as transition statements between experiences: try to “wrap” meaning around your experiences.

Demonstrate match to your target program

Demonstrate an understanding of the program to which you’re applying and about how you will be successful in that program. To do this:

Content adapted by the MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Communication Lab from an article originally created by the MIT Biological Engineering Communication Lab .

Related Resource

For more information, see these statements from MIT EECS faculty about what they look for in a grad school application.

Resources and Annotated Examples

Annotated example 1.

Personal Statement submitted by graduate student enrolled at MIT in CSAIL 192 KB

Annotated Example 2

Personal Statement submitted by graduate student enrolled at MIT in EECS 292 KB

Annotated Example 3

Personal Statement submitted by graduate student enrolled at MIT in EECS 873 KB


Personal Statements for Further Study

A personal statement is usually one or two pages long..

Guidelines given vary from the simple “Provide evidence in support of your application” to the more common “Tell us why you are interested in the course to which you have applied. Describe your academic interests and reasons for applying to XXX”. For some courses there may be a much more prescriptive and structured approach, requiring you to write a series of shorter responses to specific questions relating to your motivation, experience and suitability for the course. You may also come across some institutions that ask you to reflect on how you might add to the diversity of a cohort should your application be successful.  

If you are applying to more than one university, each statement will need a different emphasis – do not use the same statement for all applications.  

In your statement, you should demonstrate:

Structure and Content

The opening paragraph sets the framework for the rest of the statement, think of it as your ‘trailer’. This is where you can grab the reader’s attention or lose it… You might start with a powerful anecdote, a brief narrative of your initial inspiration, or a thought-provoking statement linked to your academic interests.

Within the main body of the essay you should aim to cover:

Why you want to study this topic or field

Is it a natural extension of your current interests? How did you become interested in this area? Why does it continue to fascinate you? What have you done within your degree or outside of your study to fuel this interest? Would the course provide a step towards a longer-term goal?

Why you have chosen this specific course and institution

Are there particular options or modules that interest you? Is there particular expertise in that department? Has access to specific resources such as museum collections, libraries or laboratory equipment been a factor? Has the reputation (through recommendations or other means) of the course inspired you? Are you attracted by opportunities for collaboration or work placements? Have you attended any Open Days or other visits?

How your experience equips you for the course

Consider the subjects you studied at undergraduate level; your relevant skills (technical, language, computing, research methods); independent study or research; prior (relevant) experience; academic awards and other achievements. The focus here is likely to be on your academic suitability for the course, but if you have relevant work experience or extra-curricular activities that provide further evidence of your interest or ability then include them too. Your non-academic achievements might also provide evidence of project management, resilience, effective communication and so on.

Where the course might lead you

You don’t need to have a detailed career plan, but you do need to show how this course fits in with your general aspirations. Are you intending to continue on to a PhD? Do you have a broad interest in contributing to a particular issue or field, e.g. social enterprise, public policy, human rights, sustainability? Or do you have a more specific goal in mind? How will your chosen course help you to achieve your goals?

Closing paragraph

Use your closing paragraph to summarise your application, return to any themes you introduced at the beginning, and to restate your enthusiasm for the course.

Practical Advice

Research Proposals

For many PhD and some research Masters applications the personal statement is often accompanied by a research proposal – a document that sets out your research interests and proposed area of study. The detail required in this section varies hugely for different disciplines. For some science subjects it may simply be a list, in order of preference, of the named PhD projects you wish to be considered for. However, for most areas – and especially in the arts, humanities and social sciences – you will need to devote a considerable amount of time to developing your ideas, discussing them with potential supervisors and writing a proposal. Your academic tutors should be able to give you some guidance on writing research proposals, and there is some useful advice from  Vitae  and from  Find a PhD .

Admission Essays for US Graduate Schools

The information in this handout applies also to applications to American universities. However, there are subtle differences in the style and approach to essays aimed at the US context. A statement written for the US is likely to feel more personal; think of it as your academic biography – setting out your inspiration for the academic path you have followed in the past, the present and into the future. The Careers Service runs a workshop on US applications early each Michaelmas Term. The Fulbright Educational Advisory Service  also publishes guidelines on completing US applications. US university career services often provide useful advice on writing graduate school admissions essays. See for example: MIT graduate school essay advice , UC Berkeley advice on writing graduate admissions statements , UNC application essay advice and Yale advice on writing personal statements for graduate school.

Teacher Training Applications

The personal statement for postgraduate teacher training is the key part of your application. The question is quite prescriptive, and your focus should be on your motivation for becoming a teacher: particularly how your teaching and other experiences have contributed. Ideally you should also set out how these have helped you to understand the role, and the sort of teacher you aspire to be. The Careers Service runs a workshop on careers in teaching each Michaelmas Term, which includes advice about the application process. For more information, see the Careers Service information on Teaching in Schools .

Graduate Entry Medicine

Applications to graduate entry medicine courses are submitted via UCAS and include a personal statement. Much of the advice in this document also applies to medicine applications, but you are likely to need to place considerable emphasis on the relevant work experience you have gained prior to your application.

See Careers Service's information on Medicine as a Second Degree  for further information.

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Personal Statement and Writing Sample

Personal statement.

In your statement of purpose, please discuss the following in one to two single-spaced pages:


In addition to the statement of purpose, a writing sample is required for all applications to the PhD program in Epidemiology. Your writing sample should:

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Preparing your personal statement for graduate school applications

Nearly all doctoral programs and many master’s degree programs in psychology require submission of a personal statement as part of the application package. In my experience advising students as well as serving as a graduate dean for many years, few things in the application process cause students as much anxiety and prompt so many questions.

Why so much concern? Several reasons. First, what we generically call the personal statement goes by different names at different institutions: “statement of goals,” “purpose and interests” and a host of other terms. Second, institutions have varying requirements for length and specific topics. Third, you have to compose it from scratch, in contrast to your transcript (which the registrar sends), your letters of recommendation (which other people compose) and any required test scores (which the testing agency sends).

Here are answers to students’ four most common questions.

Is the personal statement important?

Absolutely yes. Summaries of research on what is important in the application process, particularly for doctoral programs, show that the statement of purpose plays a key role in admission decisions — often more important than such standbys as your GPA and GRE scores. Admission committees really do pay attention. Each program in APA’s (2018) Graduate Study in Psychology  provides a rating of the importance of the statement of purpose, so you can check for your target programs. This is where you display your:

Do I use the same one for all?

Absolutely not. Customize your statement for each program to which you apply. Each program will provide a brief description of what it wants in the applicant’s statement of purpose, the length and topics. One program may want 500 words covering topics A, B and C. Another program may want 1,500 words covering topics A, B, D and E. Pay attention to these directives. If, as program director, I want the latter and you give me the former, you have just done yourself a great disfavor — and irritated me. If you are applying to many programs, make a little spreadsheet showing what each program wants in the statement. Then, cross-check your customized statements against your spreadsheet.

What do I include?

Despite the latter advice about customizing, many programs ask about similar topics. The most common topics include your professional/career plans, academic objectives related to a particular program, research experience and other applied experience (for example, internships). Doctoral programs (but not usually master’s programs) often ask for your interest in or fit with particular faculty members (just two or three — not everyone). Of course, that fit relates to your objectives and the faculty members’ areas of expertise/research.

Because these topics appear frequently in programs’ requests, a useful strategy calls for developing a boilerplate statement covering the latter topics. Thus, you don’t have to start from scratch for every program. Construct the boilerplate, the common statement, first. Get it in good shape. Then customize it as needed for different programs.

You should certainly have a paragraph or two focusing on what you want to do in terms of career goals, academic specialty and research interests. And sift through your experiences to see which might set you apart and make you especially attractive as a candidate. Perhaps you have a strong research record, an exceptionally meaningful field experience or a few advanced undergraduate courses. Maybe all three of these.

When writing about your goals and experiences, aim for precision and detail. Avoid generic statements (“I have a lot of research experience,” “I did an internship”). Provide details, as space permits. What exactly did you do in your research, and what did you learn from it? What did your internship entail, and, again, what did you learn from it?

While on the topic of what to include, let’s identify a few things to not include. Norcross and Sayette (2016) call these the 3 Hs: humor, hyperbole, hard luck . No jokes or funny stories in the personal statement. Watch out for hyperbole in your statement: I’m the most qualified; I had the greatest major; I never have interpersonal conflicts. And don’t describe your own depression, substance abuse or family turmoil. Appleby and Appleby (2007) included such items among their “kisses of death” for applicants’ personal statements.

Will you read it for me?

The answer will vary for different faculty members and your relationship with them, but many will be happy to help. Please, however, do not ask a faculty member to read your first rough draft. Get it cleaned up. No half-sentences, no typos. Your institution may have a writing center that will prove helpful. When you have it in pretty good shape, ask a faculty member for feedback. 

Finally, proofread your statement before hitting the submit button. Remember, it’s used partly to evaluate your writing skill.

Watch this free video series for more information on graduate school applications.

American Psychological Association. (2016). Graduate study in psychology: 2017 edition . Washington, D.C.: Author.

Appleby, D.C., & Appleby, K.M. (2007). How to avoid the kisses of death in the graduate school application process. Eye on Psi Chi, 11 (3), 20-21.

Norcross, J.C., & Sayette, M.A (2016). Insider's guide to graduate programs in clinical and counseling psychology: Revised 2016/2017 edition . New York: Guilford.

About the author

Thomas P. Hogan, PhD

Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

Examples of Successful Statements

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Media File: Examples of Successful Statements

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Below are samples of personal statements. You may also select "Sample Statement" in the Media Box above for a PDF sample.

Statement #1

My interest in science dates back to my years in high school, where I excelled in physics, chemistry, and math. When I was a senior, I took a first-year calculus course at a local college (such an advanced-level class was not available in high school) and earned an A. It seemed only logical that I pursue a career in electrical engineering.

When I began my undergraduate career, I had the opportunity to be exposed to the full range of engineering courses, all of which tended to reinforce and solidify my intense interest in engineering. I've also had the opportunity to study a number of subjects in the humanities and they have been both enjoyable and enlightening, providing me with a new and different perspective on the world in which we live.

In the realm of engineering, I have developed a special interest in the field of laser technology and have even been taking a graduate course in quantum electronics. Among the 25 or so students in the course, I am the sole undergraduate. Another particular interest of mine is electromagnetics, and last summer, when I was a technical assistant at a world-famous local lab, I learned about its many practical applications, especially in relation to microstrip and antenna design. Management at this lab was sufficiently impressed with my work to ask that I return when I graduate. Of course, my plans following completion of my current studies are to move directly into graduate work toward my master's in science. After I earn my master's degree, I intend to start work on my Ph.D. in electrical engineering. Later I would like to work in the area of research and development for private industry. It is in R & D that I believe I can make the greatest contribution, utilizing my theoretical background and creativity as a scientist.

I am highly aware of the superb reputation of your school, and my conversations with several of your alumni have served to deepen my interest in attending. I know that, in addition to your excellent faculty, your computer facilities are among the best in the state. I hope you will give me the privilege of continuing my studies at your fine institution.

(Stelzer pp. 38-39)

Statement #2

Having majored in literary studies (world literature) as an undergraduate, I would now like to concentrate on English and American literature.

I am especially interested in nineteenth-century literature, women's literature, Anglo-Saxon poetry, and folklore and folk literature. My personal literary projects have involved some combination of these subjects. For the oral section of my comprehensive exams, I specialized in nineteenth century novels by and about women. The relationship between "high" and folk literature became the subject for my honors essay, which examined Toni Morrison's use of classical, biblical, African, and Afro-American folk tradition in her novel. I plan to work further on this essay, treating Morrison's other novels and perhaps preparing a paper suitable for publication.

In my studies toward a doctoral degree, I hope to examine more closely the relationship between high and folk literature. My junior year and private studies of Anglo-Saxon language and literature have caused me to consider the question of where the divisions between folklore, folk literature, and high literature lie. Should I attend your school, I would like to resume my studies of Anglo-Saxon poetry, with special attention to its folk elements.

Writing poetry also figures prominently in my academic and professional goals. I have just begun submitting to the smaller journals with some success and am gradually building a working manuscript for a collection. The dominant theme of this collection relies on poems that draw from classical, biblical, and folk traditions, as well as everyday experience, in order to celebrate the process of giving and taking life, whether literal or figurative. My poetry draws from and influences my academic studies. Much of what I read and study finds a place in my creative work as subject. At the same time, I study the art of literature by taking part in the creative process, experimenting with the tools used by other authors in the past.

In terms of a career, I see myself teaching literature, writing criticism, and going into editing or publishing poetry. Doctoral studies would be valuable to me in several ways. First, your teaching assistant ship program would provide me with the practical teaching experience I am eager to acquire. Further, earning a Ph.D. in English and American literature would advance my other two career goals by adding to my skills, both critical and creative, in working with language. Ultimately, however, I see the Ph.D. as an end in itself, as well as a professional stepping stone; I enjoy studying literature for its own sake and would like to continue my studies on the level demanded by the Ph.D. program.

(Stelzer pp. 40-41)

Writing Personal Statements for Ph.D. Programs


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Writing Process and a Suggested Timeline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How To Start a Cover Letter With Examples and Tips

Alison Doyle is one of the nation’s foremost career experts.

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

Personalize Your Cover Letter

Cover Letter Sample

More cover letter examples and templates.

Theresa Chiechi / The Balance

What's the best way to start a cover letter for a job? The first couple of sentences of your  cover letter  are the most important ones. Recruiters and hiring managers often spend mere seconds scanning your application.

If your cover letter doesn't grab their attention right away, they may never even get as far as the second paragraph. What should these all-important first sentences say? Keep in mind that you're hoping to differentiate yourself from the competition. Your goal is to explain to the reader who you are, why you're writing, and how you can contribute to the employer's success.

This might mean  highlighting a contact , providing a quick window into your relevant background and experience, or emphasizing a significant accomplishment that would make you an asset to the organization.

Think about why the hiring manager should select you, above all other candidates, for an interview, and you'll be on the right track.

How to Start a Cover Letter 

Be direct.  In these opening sentences, you want to explicitly let the reader know which position you're applying for. Hiring managers are often looking at candidates for several open jobs at any given time. Make sure it's easy for them to discover your intent. For example:

I am interested in the coordinator position at ABC company.

Mention a contact.  If someone  referred you to the position , include that information early on as well. Referrals are one of the key aspects to securing an interview, so be sure to mention yours right away. For example:

Jane Doe suggested I contact you about the job, as she feels my skills would be a good fit for the position.

State an accomplishment.  Try to state an accomplishment from your previous job. If you can, show how you added value to the last company you worked for. You might even add the job title you had if it's similar to the one you are applying for. For example:

As coordinator at XYZ Enterprises, I have increased my group's output by 37% over the past 15 months.

Express excitement.  Convey your passion for your work, and your excitement about the job and company. Your cover letter is an opportunity to sell yourself to the hiring manager, and to share why you're well qualified for the job. For example:

I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss what I have to bring to the position at ABC company.

Use keywords.  If you can include any  keywords  from the job listing, do so. You can mention a skill you have that was included in the post. For example: 

My track history of successfully managing teams and delivering projects on time and on budget makes me a good fit for this role.

Examples of Cover Letter Opening Sentences 

When you're not sure how to get started, it can be really helpful to review  examples of cover letters . You can use these as a guide, but be sure to tailor your introduction to your personal circumstances and the job you're applying for.

The more closely you  construct your cover letter  to show that you're a  match for the job requirements , the better your chances of getting selected for an interview.

What to Write in the Rest of Your Cover Letter

Of course,  the rest of your letter  is important too. You'll need to use an  appropriate salutation , and make your  cover letter closing  polite and inviting. In the  body of your letter , you have the opportunity to pitch your qualifications for the job in more detail than you have room for in your resume.

If there are specific events or accomplishments you feel are likely to make you stand out, you can briefly mention them and explain in more detail should you secure an interview.

Make sure your  contact information  is complete as well, and format your  signature  to match the letter style you are using.

Download the cover letter template  (compatible with Google Docs or Word Online) or read the example below.

Sample Cover Letter (Text Version)

John Smith 37 Oak Street Middle Village, New York 10502 555-555-555 john.smith@email.com

March 22, 2021

Dr. Jane Doe All Smiles Dentistry 5 Main Street, Suite A Middle Village, New York 10502

Dear Dr. Doe,

My former coworker, Maria Rodriguez, suggested that I contact you to express my interest in the position of dental assistant in your office in Middle Village.

I’m a licensed dental assistant with over 10 years of experience helping dentists and hygienists make their patients smile. In my current role with ABC Dental, I have gained proficiency in the four-handed dentistry technique, as well as mastering Henry Schein Dentix software.

I also have the following skills and qualifications, as outlined in the job description on your website:

Most importantly, I love people. I consider it a great privilege to help dentists improve their patients’ lives by providing the very best support and customer care.

I’ve enclosed my resume, and I hope you’ll contact me at your convenience to arrange an interview.

Signature (hard copy letter)

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Writing your PhD Personal Statement

If you are completing a PhD application, you may be required to write a personal statement, although you will find this is less common for PhD applications than those for Masters courses.

Typically you will be allowed around 1 side of A4 to say why you think you should be accepted on to the course. Sometimes you will just be asked to provide a statement that supports your application, though at other times you will be given more of a description of what to include. For example, if you are applying for a PGCE course: Describe briefly your reasons for wanting to teach giving the relevance of your previous education and experience, including teaching, visits to schools and work with other young people. There will be times when you are not given any clear indication of what you should include in your statement, so we’ve written some guidelines to help you put together a well-structured statement.

1. Write a checklist

Before starting to write your first draft of your personal statement, put together a beginner's checklist using the points below as a guide.

Try to write down a paragraph of 2 or 3 sentences for each question, as this will help you construct a good personal statement that focuses on what the reader is interested to find out. Think about:

2. Pay attention to detail

Make sure you use good vocabulary and grammar throughout your statement – using well-written sentences that flow easily will make it more fresh and dynamic compared to other applicants. Avoid overly long sentences. Try to keep the tone of your statement positive and enthusiastic. You also need to demonstrate you are able to make the points required in a concise manner, and make sure you adhere to the word limit. After you've completed your final draft, make sure you use the spelling and grammar checker on your computer to correct any mistakes. However, don't rely on this entirely - you should read it through several times for sense, and to check for other mistakes.

When you think your statement is as good as you can make it, ask a few friends or family members to take a look at it and see if they can suggest any improvements.

Print off a copy of each statement you write as what you have written will probably be referred to in your interview.

3. Give your statement structure

Your statement should be structured, with an introduction, main body and end. The aim of the introduction is to grab the reader’s attention and hold it so they remain interested and read to the end of your statement. In the main body of the statement you should concentrate on relating your skills, knowledge and experience in the field and how this relates to the course you are applying for.

4. Explain why you chose your topic

This means writing down your reasons why you are interested in and enthusiastic about pursuing further study into the field.

Convey your motivation and mention any relevant projects, dissertations or essays that demonstrate your skills. Put down anything that shows creativity, responsibility and independence.

You should also mention any prizes or awards you have, plus any relevant travelling experiences or time spent studying abroad.

Again, think about why you want to study this particular subject – make your reasons clear why you have chosen it, e.g. does the course place emphasis on a certain area of the subject, or offer specialist modules? When did you become interested in the field and what knowledge have you gained about it?

5. Include why you like this particular university

Does the institution have special research facilities/equipment that appeal to you? Are there certain academic staff in the field you wish to work with?

Try to mention at least a couple of things about the university that you are excited about as a potential student.

Staff want to hear that you have done your research and tell them why you want to join their department.

6. Talk about your skills

These include:

Place emphasis on your strengths and show how you are a better candidate than any others. Include the relevance of your undergraduate degree to the course – describe how any work you did as part of your degree relates to the course you are applying for, and what foundation in knowledge it has laid for further study.

7. Career plans

Although you may not have a concrete idea of what career path you hope to follow after completing your PhD, you should at least have some ideas that you can put down for your statement.

For example, do you think you will want to continue working in academia, either in research or teaching? Or do you see yourself working in industry? Having an idea of which direction you would like to go in will show more commitment to the course, and show that you are likely to get good results.

8. Make it unique

O ne way you can make your statement stand out is to relate a detailed example of something specific to your own experience, e.g. something that influenced your decision to pursue a particular undergraduate degree, or career path.

Remember that for each point you make in your statement, always provide an example to back it up.

E.g. if you are applying for a Masters in Biotechnology, saying you are a "good scientist" isn't enough - give examples of your previous laboratory experience, any projects you have completed and what technical skills you have learned.

9. Sell yourself

It's important to remember that a personal statement is meant to be "personal". 

There's nobody else who knows you and your experiences as well as you do, so you are the best person to write your personal statement in order to present yourself in the best possible light. 

You may wish to ask yourself: could my personal statement apply equally to, say, my friend or my neighbour?

If the answer is "yes" then it is probably too general and you need to make it more specific and more personal.

10. Tailor your statement

Do not use the same statement for each application – each one will require slightly different content depending on the university you are applying to and the department you are applying to. Therefore it’s important to research each university and what’s involved in each project so you can see what is unique about each of your choices, and how they each stand apart from the others.

Don't underestimate how difficult it can be to write a good personal statement that will do you justice. Make sure you give yourself ample time to write it.

Best of luck with your PhD personal statement, and remember: you are not trying to answer your research question, just provide an outline of why you want this place, and what qualifications, skills and work experience make you so well suited to it.

Further information

For more tips and advice on applying for a PhD, please see:

The Classroom | Empowering Students in Their College Journey

How to Write a Personal Statement for a Ph.D.

How to Write a Personal Statement to Get Into a University

How to Write a Personal Statement to Get Into a University

Personal statements are common requirements for doctoral program applications. These statements give admissions committees insight into the Ph.D. applicant that they cannot gain through transcripts and test scores. Moreover, personal statements give the applicant an opportunity to express his academic specializations and research goals which prove important to doctoral programs. A thoughtful, well-written personal statement can make the difference between an acceptance letter and a rejection letter.

Brainstorm about your statement. Personal statements are generally open-ended questions, so you need to organize your thoughts before putting pen to paper. Consider your knowledge of the field of study. For example, if you are applying to an engineering doctoral program, discuss your professional and academic experience as a chemical engineer and what it has taught you. Also, consider any obstacles or hardships you have faced or any gaps or problems in your academic record worth explaining, as suggested by the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

Draft an outline of your personal statement with a specific focus in mind. Carnegie Mellon University recommends that your focus should be “a value or an observation that has shaped you as a person.” For example, if you are applying to a doctorate program in nursing, talk about how your brother’s successful battle with cancer pushed you to help others through medicine.

Write your first draft. Use the value or observation identified in your outline as your guide. Make sure that this value is sustainable—you don’t want to risk repeating yourself. Identify specific experiences that relate to this value. For example, the nursing applicant can write about how she observed the nurse’s care of her brother and wanted to provide that level of care with patients of her own.

Consider the program you’re applying to as you write. Rutgers University’s School of Education encourages its Ph.D. applicants to explain their plans for graduate study, research interests and career plans in their personal statements. Incorporate your research and career goals into your personal statement to show that your interests align with the program’s goals. An engineer might want to focus his research on chemical engineering, while a nurse might want to focus on oncology.

Proofread the statement with your admissions committee in mind. The Purdue Online Writing Lab offers this question: “What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?” Revise your personal statement by looking at each point you make in the statement and ensuring that it serves as a convincing reason to admit you to the Ph.D. program

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Barbie Carpenter worked as a technical writer and editor in the defense industry for six years. She also served as a newspaper feature page editor and nationally syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corp. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in professional writing from the University of Central Florida.

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

How to Write a Winning UCAS Personal Statement: Examples and Tips

how to write a personal statement for phd examples

When it comes to university admissions in the UK, a UCAS personal statement is a crucial document that can make or break your application. To write a compelling UCAS personal statement, you need to understand the guidelines and requirements and be able to showcase your skills and suitability for the course. In this blog post, we’ll provide tips and examples on how to write a winning UCAS personal statement, along with advice on UCAS application processes and personal statement editing services.

What is a UCAS personal statement?

A UCAS personal statement is a document that supports your university application. It is a chance for you to explain why you are applying for the course, what interests you about the subject, and what you can bring to the course. To write an effective personal statement, you need to be aware of the UCAS application process and requirements, including UCAS personal statement structure and format. You can also benefit from personal statement writing tips and guidance from professional personal statement editing services.

How to write a winning UCAS personal statement

To write a winning UCAS personal statement, you should follow these tips:

Examples of successful UCAS personal statements

To get inspiration for your UCAS personal statement, you can look at successful personal statement samples from previous successful applicants. Examples of successful UCAS personal statements include those for courses in law, nursing, engineering, and many more. These personal statements can provide you with a better understanding of what admissions officers are looking for and how to showcase your unique strengths.

Tips for writing an effective UCAS personal statement

UCAS personal statement structure and format

Writing a winning UCAS personal statement requires time, effort, and careful planning. By following the tips and examples provided in this blog post, you can increase your chances of getting accepted into your desired university course. Remember to keep your personal statement concise, relevant, and engaging, and to seek advice and guidance from trusted sources throughout the application process. Good luck!

Q: What is a UCAS personal statement?

A: A UCAS personal statement is a document that supports your university application in the UK. It is your chance to explain why you are applying for the course, what interests you about the subject, and what you can bring to the course.

Q: How long should a UCAS personal statement be?

A: A UCAS personal statement should be no more than 4,000 characters or 47 lines in length, including spaces and blank lines.

Q: What should be included in a UCAS personal statement?

A: A UCAS personal statement should include an introduction that hooks the reader, a main body that showcases your relevant achievements and experiences, and a conclusion that summarizes your personal statement and reiterates why you are a strong candidate for the course.

Q: How do I structure my UCAS personal statement?

A: Your UCAS personal statement should be broken down into an introduction, main body, and conclusion. You can use headings and subheadings to organize your ideas.

Q: How do I make my UCAS personal statement stand out?

A: To make your UCAS personal statement stand out, you should focus on your relevant achievements and experiences, emphasize your unique qualities and strengths, and show your passion and enthusiasm for the subject. You should also avoid clichés and use a clear and concise writing style.

Q: Can I use personal statement editing services?

A: Yes, you can use personal statement editing services to refine your personal statement and ensure that it meets all the guidelines and requirements. However, you should make sure to review and revise the final version before submitting it.

Q: What else do I need to know about the UCAS application process?

A: In addition to writing a strong personal statement, you should also research the universities and courses thoroughly, meet the application deadlines, provide accurate and up-to-date information, and make use of UCAS tools and resources. You can also seek advice and guidance from your school or college, UCAS advisors, and online forums and communities.

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    If so, you need to be more specific and provide examples. Saying that you are a "good scientist" isn't enough. Provide examples of your previous research experience, projects you've completed, and what technical skills you learned. Explain how you overcame any challenges along the way.

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    One program may want 500 words covering topics A, B and C. Another program may want 1,500 words covering topics A, B, D and E. Pay attention to these directives. If, as program director, I want the latter and you give me the former, you have just done yourself a great disfavor — and irritated me.

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    2. Pay attention to detail. Make sure you use good vocabulary and grammar throughout your statement - using well-written sentences that flow easily will make it more fresh and dynamic compared to other applicants. Avoid overly long sentences. Try to keep the tone of your statement positive and enthusiastic.

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    Step 2. Draft an outline of your personal statement with a specific focus in mind. Carnegie Mellon University recommends that your focus should be "a value or an observation that has shaped you as a person.". For example, if you are applying to a doctorate program in nursing, talk about how your brother's successful battle with cancer ...

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    Divide the personal statement into an introduction, main body, and conclusion. Use headings and subheadings to organize your ideas. Use a clear and concise writing style. Avoid using jargon or overly technical language. Focus on your achievements, experiences, and qualifications relevant to the course.