Free Sample Personal Statements

It is easier to start your personal statement writing with a template. On this site are all the best sample personal statements gathered for your convenience. Use these links to start and edit your essay for graduate school, law school, medical school, and MBA admission. These example essays are intended to demonstrate proper writing style and format as well as help inspire your own writing process. Always be sure not to plagiarize. Write a statement of purpose that sets you apart.

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How to Write a Personal Statement for Graduate School

Prospective graduate school candidates, whatever their intended areas of scholastic focus, will all have to wrestle with that most fundamental of tasks… writing the personal statement. This is an importand piece of writing you must do in order to be admitted into graduate school. It’s also good writing experience for winning a scholarship.

Since one of the things graduate school candidates must do is put together a personal statement in order to wow admissions committees, it goes without saying that a few pointers on how best to go about it might be in order. A personal statement, also known as an admissions essay, basically consists of a one- to two-page document in which prospective graduate school candidates explain why they want to pursue the degree in question and why they should be selected over their rivals by the admissions committee.

Depending on the Master’s degree or Ph.D. program being considered, there will be varying levels of competition to grab some of the coveted positions. Since many applicants may have stellar academic records, the admissions committee often uses the candidates’ personal statements as a tie-breaker of sorts to decide which applicants to accept and which applicants to reject. So doing a good job on the personal statement is paramount.

People who are planning to go to graduate school or who are mulling over the possibility of choosing this route down the road can read further to find out how to write a personal statement that will boost their odds of being accepted into the graduate program of their choice.

Since a personal statement can be a deciding factor for or against applicants, it’s important for applicants to consider how they can best highlight their academic achievements, skills sets and future objectives in a way that wins over the admissions committee. It can be helpful to do a bit of brainstorming before actually starting the formal writing process, since doing so will help applicants to identify key areas to focus on. When brainstorming, applicants can consider things like the following to get their creative juices flowing:

a)    Career objectives
b)    Skill sets
c)    Suitability for the graduate program
d)    Academic background
e)    Research experience that might be relevant to the graduate program being applied to
f)    Relevant internship positions

After doing some careful reflection about what needs to be covered in the personal statement, applicants need to come up with some sort of structure to present their points in a way that is logical, coherent and compelling. As with any essay assignment, a personal statement for graduate school should have an introduction, a body that covers points mentioned in the introduction and a conclusion that wraps everything up.

In the introduction, candidates need to clearly spell out to the admissions committee why they want to be admitted into the graduate program and why they would make ideal students. Make the first sentence count so as to grab the attention of whoever ends up reading the personal statement. Candidates should use the supporting paragraphs – highlighting one major point per paragraph – to drive home the point that they are worth adding to the graduate program. This means including information about relevant job experiences, internships and volunteer positions. Prefer the concrete over the intangible. So being specific about research projects embarked upon with a university’s department head, for example, would be better than just casually making reference to research experience. While working on the body, candidates that want to really set themselves apart will demonstrate that they’ve actually taken the time to research the schools they’re hoping to join. For instance, candidates can in their personal statement highlight any relevant accomplishments of a faculty member who will be part of the program they are applying to. It’s important, however, that any such mentions fit logically into the personal statement. If these mentions look as if they’ve been included just for the sake of doing so, they will do the candidates more harm than good because admissions committees don’t want to feel as though they’re being flattered for flattery’s sake. In the concluding paragraph, candidates need to provide a brief overview of what was presented up to that point and then drive home the message of how their being chosen to take part in the program would enable them to achieve their career objectives.

Remember that it’s important to answer any specific questions that may be required as part of the personal statement requirement. It might be easy to get caught up in trying to impress the admissions committee to the point of failing to adequately answer some of the particular questions that are required. Candidates who take the aforementioned advice to heart will be well on their way to getting admissions committees to given them the nod of approval.

How to Write a Successful Personal Statement for Graduate Schools

Based on a presentation by: Professor Hower, Cornell University, Department of English.

The personal statement is a difficult piece of writing, maybe the most difficult piece of writing you will ever do, and therefore you have to do it very carefully. It is an opportunity for you to give a picture of yourself. It may take a great deal of time and energy but at least you will have written something you are proud of, which says something important about you. So I would suggest first of all: write it for yourself as much as for graduate schools in America; do a job that you like, something that has integrity, which says something important about you. If things don’t turn out the way you hope, at least you will have written something difficult but satisfying.

Importance – How important is the personal statement? This depends on your marks to a certain extent. If your marks are very high, then it may not be as important as it is for someone whose marks are not so good. Nevertheless it is important. A person with high marks can spoil his/her chances of admission with a bad essay. At highly competitive schools, where most applicants score at the 97th percentile level on standardized tests, a winning personal statement may be the deciding factor in admission.

What Are Universities Looking For? – First of all don’t second guess. Don’t try to figure out what you think they want and supply it because you won’t be able to do that. Nor can you understand the mind of a 50 year old American who is living 10,000 miles away from you and may have woken up that morning with a headache and then was bitten by a dog on his way to the office. There is no way you can second guess, you cannot read their minds. Having said that, I can tell you some things which all college admissions officers want to see in the application:

• A Picture of Your Overall Personality – How will you give a picture of your personality? I would suggest that you imply rather than state the facts. For instance, don’t say ‘I am a smart person.’ Demonstrate it, imply it. Don’t say ‘I am energetic.’ Give evidence by the fact that you worked after school for six hours every day and still had time to play on the volleyball team.

• Academic Background and Work Experience – It would be a mistake to talk about your high school. Start with your undergraduate career. School records may be worth mentioning if there is something extraordinary about them.

• Continuity – Admissions officers are looking for some continuity in what you have done, what you want to do in the near future and what you hope to do in the distant future. So, connect them.

• Commitment and Motivation – Rather than simply saying ‘I am committed’, find a way of inferring that you are indeed highly committed and motivated to your proposed field of study.

• Communication Skills – They will be looking at your writing skills – how well you can present yourself clearly and intelligently when writing, hence the importance of spending considerable time on the statement.

These five points are very general but almost every university wants to know about them. They may be too general but if you miss one of them you are probably missing something important.

General Do’s and Don’ts


Do take a lot of time writing your personal statement. – Don’t do this at the last minute. Plan to spend a month or so preparing for the essay. Plan to let it rest for a week, so you have time to mull it over and get a perspective on it. Don’t be hasty and sloppy.

• Do read the question carefully. – If they ask you why you want to go to law school, answer that. If they ask what your career goals are, answer that question. Don’t go off on a tangent or get too verbose.

• Do write the length of personal statement they ask for.
If they ask for 200 words give them that or 190 or 220. You don’t give them a 1000 and you don’t give them 50.

• Type your final draft unless they tell you not to. – Type it well with no mistakes. Buy some good paper. If you’re writing it, see that it is clear and legible.

• Do write a separate personal statement for each university. – There is no reason why you can’t take a paragraph from one essay and apply it to another. Your essays don’t have to be every word different but each university would like to think that you are especially interested in their program. Each university is different. Make something about your essay distinctive to that university and mention its name. Don’t write an all-purpose general essay. Admissions faculties don’t like that.

• Do as much research on the university as you can. – If you can get hold of a catalogue, read it. If you can find someone who went to the university, talk to them. Find out as much as you can about the university. You don’t want to say ‘I have always wanted to go to Harvard because I wanted to find out about the Great American West’. As most of you know, Harvard is not in the Great American West. It is in Massachusetts.

• Accentuate your positive qualities. – If you had the highest mark in class, make sure that they know it. Make sure that they know that you were able to hold a full-time job while going to school. Make sure that they know that you won any awards. Make sure that they know that you were captain of a team.

• Mention your positive achievements as they apply to your graduate admission. – The information you provide in your personal statement about your important achievements must be related to your field. If you are applying for medicine and you have won a poetry prize, don’t mention your poetry prize because you may not have space. It is a good thing, but you may need to fill your application with more relevant information. On the other hand, you could mention your work as organizer of blood donation camps or your internships as a psychiatric care worker.

• Do mention your work experience, or volunteer work that you may have done or extra-curricular activities if they relate to your field. – For example, if you are going to apply to business school and you were on the basketball team you may think that it is not relevant. However if you learned leadership qualities, if you learned how to endure defeat, if you learned management skills by being captain of the basketball team, then it is relevant. You have to show the relevance. If you had a job after school, working in the college bookstore or you have done volunteer work at a hospital, this is relevant – you have learned management skills at the shop. You have learned to interact with people while you worked in the hospital.

• Be definite in writing your application. – Don’t say – ‘I hope to do this’; ‘I might like to do that’. Say ‘I want to do this’, ‘I am planning to do this’, ‘I intend to do that’. Your language is definite. It is not hesitant and indecisive.


• Don’t try to second-guess admissions faculty, as I have already said, and don’t flatter them. – Don’t say ‘I’ve always wanted to study at the University of Montana because I have heard that it is the best university in the world to study medicine.’ It may not be and even if it is, it sounds like flattery.

• Don’t be phony. – Be honest. Admissions faculty can spot a dishonest essay a mile away. It would not be to your advantage to be dishonest as you might get into a university and then find it was not the right place for you.

• Don’t glorify yourself. – Don’t say – ‘I was the best tennis player in the whole city of Madras’. That is boasting. However being modest and subtle are also not good qualities. There is a medium between being modest and boastful.

• Do not repeat materials that are already on the application. – Don’t say ‘My major is Physics’ because you have already said that somewhere else. Instead say ‘While I majored in Physics I also took …’ or ‘My Physics major enabled me to take special courses in… and…’. Do mention your knowledge and experience in the field at the university level. It is usually a poor idea to mention your high school experience unless something exceptional happened at that time that changed your life or affected your career choice. Follow these guidelines and your personal statement for graduate school will stand out among all personal statement submitted.