4 tips to keep in mind when writing your grad school personal statement

Is grad school on your radar for after college? If so, there are some things you need to know about applying, particularly how to craft a killer personal statement.

What do you suggest including in your grad school personal statement? (Credit: Princeton Review)

What do you suggest including in your grad school personal statement? (Credit: Princeton Review)

The personal statement is your opportunity to persuade the selection committee why you belong in their program, as well as your best shot for explaining any blips on your academic record in terms of grades, etc. Read on for tips for writing a personal statement that will wow.

1. Do research for your personal statement

Before you even sit down to write a personal statement for grad school, it is important to know what the school you are applying to wants in that statement. Some universities will ask you to cover or touch on certain topics. Others will leave things wide open for you to decide what to write about.

If the school you are applying to doesn’t provide any direction or tips for writing, the trend is for shorter essays, especially if you are going into a STEM field. Longer papers have a tendency to be skimmed. If you want your entire message to be absorbed, I suggest keeping it short and to the point.

2. Stay personal, but focused

Your personal statement for grad school is not a mini biography of your life up until now. What are some other things you need to know about this important paper? You want to explain your personal reasons for applying to this particular school/program and provide evidence in your academic career and/or life to back up why you should be accepted. However, you need to do this in a way that is professional and scholarly. I know it sounds a bit overwhelming, but pick whichever is easier and work backwards. For instance if you have a specific project you worked on in undergrad, use that as an example and figure out how that can be used to explain your reasons for applying to this particular program.

And by the way, writing about childhood anecdotes is probably best left for your college application, not grad school.

3. Work your connections

Believe it or not, a grad school program will go for a candidate who demonstrates their enthusiasm with less than stellar grades over one who seems less motivated but aced all their courses. Why? Grad school programs are much more collaborative than undergraduate work; you will work closely with a mentor on your own project or thesis. Therefore, a program often prefers someone who knows about the school’s program and is genuinely excited about being a part of it. One of the best tips for writing I can offer is to work in something that addresses your passion for the program or area of study into your personal statement. If you know someone at the program or have a professor with a connection to the grad school, ask them for advice, recommendations, whatever they are willing to provide.

4. Be specific, not generic

You may be tempted to write one personal statement that you can use for all your grad school applications. I wish it were that easy for you. However, each school is different and each program is its own thing. Chief among the things you need to know is how to create personal statements that are reflective of these differences and not a generic, one-size-fits-all essay.

My tips for writing a personal statement for grad school include thinking about your reasons for considering this school in the first place. Don’t have a solid reason? Then maybe you shouldn’t be applying to this particular type of program or you need to rethink that choice of grad school. Regardless, whatever you write should be sincere in its tone.

BONUS: proofread the heck out of your personal statement. Sloppy, typo-laden essays will not further your cause.

Have you thought about continuing your education by attending grad school? Let us know in the comments.

1 reply
  1. Ruth Kinloch says:

    Great tips! Thanks for keeping your article short and to the point! As a writer, I think that the most important thing about your personal statement is to keep it generic. It should be ‘personal’ as it is maybe the only way for the reader to get to know you better. Second, it is essential that it is grammatically correct.


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