Graduate School Personal Statement

The statement of purpose or personal statement is an extremely important part of the graduate school application because it gives the Graduate Admissions Committee assessing you application their most significant impression of you as an individual. Faculty members are interested in your motivation, intellectual skills, and suitability for study in their program. Committee members most often consider the following characteristics when evaluating a personal statement:

  • What are your intentions for graduate study?
  • Do you write clearly?
  • Can you communicate you ideas effectively?
  • Do your interests really fit those of the department or school?
  • Are there special things about you that set you apart from other applicants?
  • Why are you a particularly desirable student?

Writing a statement of purpose is usually the first step in considering graduate school. Setting your ideas and goals down on paper should help you clarify your thoughts.  The statement should reflect your own intellectual development. One strategy is to discuss the points in your life when you made decisions and what influenced them--the decision on a college major, the decision on a career goal, the family members and role models who inspired you.

Once you have a general statement, you can target it to fit programs to which you are applying by citing the reasons why you selected the program and how it fits your background and interests. The application materials may give you a specific format for the statement of purpose or ask you to respond to specific questions. Be sure to follow directions and design your statement to fit the constraints of the application's instructions.

The general statement of purpose is also a good vehicle to use to approach faculty members for letters of recommendations.  Make an appointment with a faculty member to discuss your statement and ask for comments before you put it into final form. Also ask for a letter of recommendation after you have had the discussion. You will have valuable feedback on you statement, and this will also demonstrate your interest in graduate school.