There’s no doubt that your grades matter when applying for grad school. However, your GPA is not the full picture. That’s where personal statements come in handy.
While, getting into grad school, especially Ivy League grad schools, is highly competitive these days. Selection committees look at a variety of factors when choosing between the huge numbers of qualified candidates who apply each year.
Even if you have a great GPA, you’ll be competing against a larger number of other students with similar GPAs. So a strong personal statement is essential to help you stand out from the crowd.
Fortunately, this also means that you can strengthen your application with a phenomenal personal statement if your GPA is not quite up to scratch. In fact, some committees pay special attention to your personal statement.
Sure, your GPA and test scores say a lot about your academic performance. However, they are only formal documents. Selection committees also want to understand your academic goals and your motivations, and for this, they look to your personal statement.
So, what should be included in your personal statement for graduate school? Most importantly, how do you write a winning personal statement that will help you get into your dream program?
Read on to learn everything to know!
What is a Personal Statement?
Though the requirements vary depending on the institution and the program, generally grad school selection depends on:
An admissions test or exam
Your GPA or academic record
Your personal statement
When applying for grad school, you’ll need to submit a personal statement along with the other requirements. Your personal statement helps the selection committee understand your goals, passion, and ambitions.
Unlike undergraduate admissions that largely rely on academic performance, grad school selection considers a broader range of factors. This is because committees know that success at grad school is about more than just academic performance – you also need to be motivated, disciplined, and driven.
Some programs have very strict requirements for what should be included in their personal statements for graduate school, while others leave it more open. Regardless, you’ll need to demonstrate that you are a strong candidate and will excel in their program.
Tips for Writing a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate School
Your personal statement could make all the difference in getting into your dream grad school and setting you on the path for an exceptional career. Although the best personal statement can vary depending on where you’re applying, there are some things that all the best personal statements examples for graduation school have in common.
So let’s take a look at some top tips on how to write a personal statement for grad school.
1. Check the Guidelines
First things first – look at the grad school’s individual requirements and guidelines. Every institution has different guidelines for how they want the personal essay to be formatted and what it should include. Check the required format, maximum word count, information that must be included, and other guidelines.
Most grad schools will post the requirements on their website – if not, contact the admissions office. You don’t want to spend hours writing an essay only to be disqualified just because you didn’t follow the guidelines properly!
2. Be Genuine
You are wrong if you think exaggerating your experiences or achievements will get you admission to your dream university. The selection committee reads a large number of personal statements on a regular basis.
They’ll quickly see if your assertions are too good to be true. Likewise, it’s not hard for them to tell the difference between a fake and real statement. It’s all about framing your own experiences and motivations in a certain way, rather than exaggerating or fabricating anything.
3. Keep it Short
Aspiring grad students often feel pressured to write everything about themselves in their personal statement. You don’t need to explain all of your interests, ambitions, and achievements in this document. Instead, it should be short, relevant to the graduation program, and engaging.
The exact length will depend on the programs’ guidelines, but generally speaking, a good personal statement for grad school is around one page. Furthermore, you should make sure that every paragraph and sentence has a purpose. If there isn’t a good reason to include it in your personal statement, cut it out!
4. Keep it Relevant
A trip to Iceland might be super meaningful to you, but it’s probably not relevant to your application for a computer science program. When writing your personal statement, keep it to experiences and qualifications relevant to the particular program you’re applying for.
However, keeping things relevant doesn’t mean you have to be limited to academic qualifications and professional experience. Some of your personal experiences and even family history may be appropriate and add value.
Furthermore, adding personal elements can make your application more authentic and persuasive, as long as they are relevant to the program you are applying for.
5. Be Unique
Grad school selection committees read hundreds, if not thousands of personal statements. So it’s important to stand out from the crowd and make a good impression, and anything that is a little different will help.
This could be a unique and engaging opening sentence, or finishing your personal statement with a dramatic line. You can also make your application stand out with unique personal experiences or exceptional qualifications. These will be your point of difference, so be sure to emphasize them in your personal statement!
6. Strike a Balance
If you look at the best graduate school personal statement examples, you’ll see how the writers manage to strike the right balance between a professional and an informal tone. The goal is to keep the tone neutral — neither too stiff and formal, nor overly friendly. Remember that this is a personal statement and so it is supposed to reflect your personality.
However, it’s also important to keep in mind that you are writing it for your dream graduation program, so it must also be professional. If you are having trouble striking the right tone, consult with a professional writer or editor.
7. Pay Attention to Grammar and Structure
As part of preparing a professional document, it’s critical that the text has proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling throughout. At grad school, you’re expected to be able to write to a high professional standard, and this means having perfect grammar.
The last thing you want is for your application to be rejected because of poor sentence construction. One way to avoid this is having your essay proofread and edited. If you can’t afford this, ask a qualified friend or family member to look over it.
Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School
The best graduate school personal statement examples have certain things in common:
They start with a strong opener that grabs the attention of the selection committee.
This flows into a compelling narrative that clearly demonstrates the student’s passion and motivation.
They include specific examples which show the student’s discipline and work ethic.
They encompass family history, goals, education, and professional background all within a short statement.
They are well-written, well-structured, and flow well.
They are well-organized, each paragraph having its own message and belongs in the personal statement.
By applying these rules to your own experience and motivations, you’ll be able to write your own personal statement that will greatly strengthen your grad school application.
Personal Statement Takeaways
A personal statement is a crucial element of your grad school application. Your GPA alone will not get you into your dream graduate program, especially if you’re seeking admission to a leading institution.
Writing a personal statement for graduate school can be a little overwhelming, especially if it’s your first try. It’s important to come up with a succinct statement that is also unique, authentic, and professional. Keep it short, simple, compelling, and most importantly relevant to the program.
Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you'll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.