Social Work Degrees

How to Write an Effective Personal Statement for Grad School

personal statements for social work graduate school

Written by Michelle, Founder of MSW Helper

Schools of social work are looking for your ability to think critically and contribute to the social work field. This is more important than your grades and experience. I know this because I’ve seen people with high grades and a ton of experience get rejected from the program because they weren’t able to articulate their critical thinking skills (and I’ve seen it go the other way too, where applicants with low grades and little experience get accepted because of their strong personal statement).

So, let’s talk about how you can write an effective personal statement for your grad school application.

personal statements for social work graduate school

Michelle is the Founder of MSW Helper, where she helps Master of Social Work Applicants write top notch personal statements for grad school. Michelle understands how stressful applying to the MSW can be, and strives to help applicants feel confident about their applications. 

Check out her website to learn more: https://www.mswhelper.com/

What schools of social work are looking for

In my experience, most schools of social work ask about these key areas:

  • Your experiences that motivated you to become a social worker, including personal, professional, academic, and other experiences
  • A discussion of a social problem and how social workers can work towards solving it
  • Your goals as a social worker

In addition, schools of social work typically assess your personal statement for the following:

  • Evidence of critical and analytical thinking skills
  • Potential contribution to the field of social work
  • Your ability to communicate clearly and succinctly

This is how you can demonstrate all of the following key areas seamlessly.

Contribution to the field

Let’s look at a personal statement of a past MSW applicant:

Applicant name: Sally ●        Experiences : Sally works at a women’s shelter and talks about what she learned there. ●        Social Justice Issue : Sally decides to talk about an issue within child welfare. ●        Goal : Sally mentions that she wants to get an MSW so that she can qualify for a job at the hospital.

There are a few issues with Sally’s personal statement.

First, there is no cohesion between her experience, social justice issue, and goals, which makes it hard for the reader to understand why she wants to pursue an MSW and how she’ll be an asset to the field.

Second, Sally is talking about how an MSW will be beneficial for her, which comes off as a bit self-serving. When writing a personal statement, it’s important to talk about how pursuing an MSW will allow her to help others.

With this in mind, let’s see an example of how Sally could improve her personal statement:

Applicant: Sally ●        Experiences : Sally works at a women’s shelter and talks about what she learned there. ●        Social Justice Issue : Sally discusses an insight from her time at the women’s shelter, and backs it up with research that proves that her observation is part of a larger social problem.  ●        Goal : This issue that Sally noticed at the women’s shelter inspired her to get her MSW so that she can address that issue and support her clients in a different capacity and advocate for women’s rights at the macro level.

Better, right?

In this version of her personal statement, Sally demonstrates a high level of critical thinking by talking about her insights and backing them up with research, and she demonstrates her potential contribution to the field by discussing how a Master of Social Work will allow her to serve others in a greater capacity. 

If you’re planning to write a personal statement, a great place to start is to think about insights and problems you’ve observed from your work, volunteer, placement, and personal experiences, and use those insights to develop your social justice problem.

Evidence of critical and analytical thinking

In addition to demonstrating your potential to contribute to the field, there are some tangible ways you can demonstrate your critical thinking skills.

First, make sure you understand what social work actually is.

This might sound obvious, but there are a surprising number of applicants who have a pretty limited understanding of what social work entails. I don’t blame them. The media often portrays a specific image of what social workers look like (usually involving child welfare, case workers, or therapists).

However, social work is so much more than that. Social workers work at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of society, and can work in many areas at each of these levels.

Also, many applicants pursue social work out of a desire to help others, but it’s not good enough to say that in your personal statement. There are a lot of other jobs you can do that would allow you to help others. Think about how social workers are different from other helping professions (such as nurses, psychologists, police officers, teachers, lawyers, etc.).  Why do you want to be a social worker and not another helping profession?

Understanding what social work is will help you provide a stronger and more thorough answer to the question of “why” you want to become a social worker.

Finally, connect your insights to the bigger picture by integrating research into your personal statement .

It’s one thing to talk about the issues you’ve noticed from your experiences, and it’s another to connect your insight to the bigger picture with the help of research.

Let’s look at Sally again.

Sally’s role at the women’s shelter is to help her clients who experienced domestic violence find housing. Sally noticed that many of her previously housed clients got evicted and ended up back at the shelter.

Sally also did some research and found studies to suggest that women who experience domestic violence have an overall higher rate of housing instability due to barriers such as income loss and lack of social support.

This knowledge motivated Sally to pursue a Master of Social Work so that she can move into a policy role to advocate for income and social support for women who experience domestic violence.

Connecting experience to research will demonstrate a high level of critical thinking.

Ability to communicate clearly and succinctly

When it comes to writing your personal statement, it’s not only what you say, but also how you say it. Admissions committees are typically assessing your personal statement for your writing ability.

Make it easy to read : Admissions committees read literally hundreds of personal statements each application season, so it’s likely that whoever reads your personal statement is going to quickly skim through your personal statement to find your answers. With that in mind, it’s important to make your personal statement as skimmable and easy to read as possible.

You can do this by adding headings that match each question or prompt so that the reader can easily see that you did answer each prompt.

You should also be concise and get rid of filler words and sentences that don’t directly answer the prompts.

Finally, you should always try to include an introduction and a conclusion in your personal statement where you summarize your experience, social justice problem, and goals. This will allow the reader to get your whole story in a few sentences, and leave them with a strong impression at the beginning and end of your personal statement.

Treat your personal statement like an academic writing sample: Many applicants don’t realize that the personal statement is a sample of your academic writing and research skills. One way to stand out is to treat your personal statement like a school paper. I often advise applicants to use full APA formatting when writing their personal statement, as this will make your personal statement look more professional and will stand out from the crowd. 

Creating Your Own MSW Personal Statement

When writing a personal statement for your MSW, it’s important to demonstrate your potential contribution to the field, critical thinking skills, and strong writing ability. If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to writing an effective personal statement that stands out.

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Graduate School Admissions: Writing an Effective Personal Statement

By: David C. Prichard, Ph.D.

This article focuses on the central role that the personal statement plays in the MSW application process. Strategies are presented for writing an effective statement that will highlight and emphasize applicant strengths congruent with the values of particular Schools of Social Work. The author has chaired the MSW Admissions Committee at the University of New England (UNE) over the past three years, and has assisted in the review of several hundred MSW application packages. During this period, the application procedures were completely revamped, and UNE was subsequently acknowledged in 1995 by the Council on Social Work Education in its Site Visit Report for reaffirmation of accreditation as having developed an admissions process that is "one of the more elaborate, perhaps, in social work education," and for using " . . . as primary sources of decisions, its applicants' personal statements and references." It is from this background that the author offers practical insights and suggestions for writing a personal statement that will increase the likelihood of a good match between student applicant and MSW program.

The Admission Process

Admission policies and procedures among Schools of Social Work vary widely; so too, do the criteria used to evaluate MSW applicants. In general, schools use GRE scores and academic transcripts as quantitative measures to predict academic success. The personal statement, letters of reference, and the application form (including employment and other social work-related experience) are qualitative indicators that may be used to suggest the "fit" between the applicant and the particular school. As the validity of GRE scores comes under increasing criticism (Donahoe & Thyer, 1992), Schools of Social Work, like UNE, are increasingly relying on the personal statement as a qualitative measure of the likelihood of an applicant's "success" with a particular MSW curriculum.

UNE may be representative of a more heavy emphasis on narrative to evaluate MSW applicants. In this approach, two faculty review each student application on the following 6 criteria:

  • work-related (paid and volunteer) and life experiences;
  • meaning attached by applicant to work-related (paid and volunteer) and life experiences;
  • previous academic and professional training;
  • composition and content of personal statement;
  • references, and;
  • experience with and understanding of human dignity, empowerment, social justice, and oppression.

GRE scores are not considered, and the use of undergraduate GPAs is minimized. The faculty reviewers are made familiar in advance with the application materials, particularly regarding where data related to each of the six evaluative criteria may be located within the materials. Reviewers are instructed to consult the student's personal statement for data in all categories but references; the data in all categories are in turn measured against the School's mission statement. Given this approach to evaluating MSW applications, applicants should craft their personal statements carefully, keeping the School's mission statement in mind.

The Personal Statement and the School Mission Statement

The personal statement should reflect careful consideration of the schools to which the applicant has chosen to apply. It gives applicants the opportunity to highlight experiences and reasons for their interest in the field, and allows the school's Admissions Committee to evaluate the compatibility between the values and goals of the applicant and those of the school, while maintaining and assuring diversity within the student body. Without question, well-developed personal statements have contributed to the acceptance of many applicants; poorly written ones to the non-acceptance.

The values and goals of Schools of Social Work vary greatly, and applicants should seek schools whose mission statements fit well with their own values and goals for practice. What are the values and principles that form the foundation of the school? Applicants should reflect upon these carefully. What do they mean? If a school emphasizes the concepts of oppression, social justice, empowerment, dignity, compassion, and respect, what do these mean and how has the life of the applicant been affected in these areas? One of the tasks of the applicant is to tap into her internalized experience of these values to allow the richness of her life to come alive.

The purpose of a well-written personal statement is three-fold. First, it should describe how the applicant's interest in social work developed; second, it needs to consider the applicant's perception of personal strengths and areas in need of development in relation to becoming a professional social worker; and third, it should describe an understanding of the school's mission statement in relation to the applicant's experience and vision of professional social work.

What events in her total life experiences have led the applicant to the field of social work? What is her story, and how did it lead her to apply to this specific school? This is the opportunity to show the link between what may appear on the surface to be disparate life experiences. It is the chance for the applicant to narrate her story and come alive to the faculty reviewer and become a living, thinking, feeling human being with a life full of meaningful experiences.

A Case Example

Using the values of the mission of the UNE School of Social Work, let's examine how an applicant might incorporate the values of the School to carefully craft a summary paragraph in a personal statement. The mission statement of the UNE School of Social Work states, in part, a commitment ". . . to the values of human dignity, individual and cultural diversity, individual and collective self-determination, and social justice . . . to struggle against oppression including all forms of discrimination, social and economic injustice, and violence . . . assessment of social, psychological, economic and organizational oppression, (and) their impact on people's lives, and the strengths people have developed to endure, resist, and change . . . and to promote human relationships grounded in mutuality, compassion, and dignity."

An applicant might present her life and professional experiences using the language and terminology consistent with the values of the stated mission of the School. A paragraph in the personal statement, then, might read as follows:

The values that the School presents in its mission statement are not just words for me. As a lesbian, I have lived the oppression of a society grounded in heterosexist patriarchy, and have experienced firsthand the social and economic injustices suffered by my women and lesbians friends, as well as the working poor. A quiet person by nature, I have discovered a voice that I did not know I had. I have added my voice to those seeking equal rights for same sex partners and continue my struggle to receive health care benefits for my partner of 15 years. I have come to recognize and value the strengths and resiliencies I have developed by necessity to survive the neglect and abuse of my childhood and use these in my ongoing struggle against the discrimination and societal injustices that I experience as a woman and as a lesbian.

Notice how this excerpt from a fictional applicant allows the applicant to come alive to the reader in a passionate, enthusiastic manner while clearly using the language and the values presented in the mission statement of the School. It should be clear that the values of the School and those of the student appear compatible and that there might be a good match here.

In the following fictional excerpt, note the apparent incongruence between the values and goals of the applicant and those of the School, suggesting a poor fit between the School and applicant.

In conclusion, I have always been intrigued by psychological issues, and have actually done quite a lot of reading in the field. I feel that I am an excellent communicator and that I would be able to help clients deal with their problems. My ultimate goal is to become part of a group private practice, and although I am concerned about the current insurance problems and third party reimbursement concerns, I believe that there continues to be a need for MSWs to help people with their psychological and social problems. I believe that the MSW is the most powerful degree to have to provide psychotherapy to clients, and that we will become increasingly recognized by HMOs and managed care companies as the most effective providers. This is the degree that will most aptly enable me, as a psychotherapist in private practice, to help those afflicted with mental illness to become more productive members of society.

Either of these excerpts may be acceptable and, perhaps, even appropriate, depending on the School to which the applicant is applying; however, given the summary of the values of the above School, the first excerpt clearly represents a better fit than the second. In the first we experience a strengths-based perspective and a genuine sense of the struggles and of the "voice" of the applicant-the person behind the words; in the second, we see a more traditional pathology-based perspective and an emphasis on the career ambitions of the applicant.

Recommendations

Four general recommendations are offered to applicants. First, they need to come to a clear understanding of their own values and career goals, and how these are informed by their total life experiences. Second they should come to a clear understanding of the values and goals of the School of Social Work to which they plan to apply. This may be accomplished through faculty, field instructor, and alumni interviews, review of mission statements, review of past core curriculum syllabi, and a library search and review of the literature produced by current faculty. Third, they need to determine which Schools have values that are compatible with their own. Fourth, they need to develop personal statements that reflect the influences in their lives that contributed to an interest in the profession of social work. These statements should reflect a clear understanding of the mission statement of the particular school.

In summary, the purpose of the application process is to give the applicant and the school the chance to screen one another. Applications should be completed only after careful examination of the mission and goals of particular schools, and personal statements need to show a clear understanding of and connection to the values and goals of the school and its curriculum. Perhaps the most useful recommendation for potential applicants is to take the time to reflect on and write out the values and beliefs that guide their lives, inform their behavior, and provide meaning to their life experiences, and to seek out schools that are compatible to these. This done, the personal statement should flow naturally and genuinely, because it will be based on the knowledge, truth, wisdom, and authenticity of personal life experience.

David C. Prichard, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Social Work and Chair of the MSW Admissions Committee at the University of New England.

Copyright © 1996 White Hat Communications. All rights reserved. From THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER , Fall 1996, Vol. 3, No. 2. For reprints of this or other articles from THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER (or for permission to reprint), contact Linda Grobman, publisher/editor, at P.O. Box 5390, Harrisburg, PA 17110-0390, or at [email protected] .

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Masters in social work personal statement

If you'd like to become a social worker but didn't study the subject at undergraduate level then a Masters degree is essential for entry into the profession. You'll need to write a personal statement that coveys your commitment and passion to social work

Writing a personal statement for a vocational postgraduate course, like the MSc or Postgraduate Diploma in social work requires a slightly different approach from what you might be used to when applying for academic courses, as you're not only applying for a course, but to train for a particular profession.

You will be expected to:

  • discuss your motivations to train as a social worker
  • reflect on your experiences to demonstrate that you have a realistic insight into the role of a social worker and how they work to support people
  • provide evidence that you have, or are developing relevant skills and qualities for the role
  • show that you have the academic suitability to undertake a postgraduate level course.

For many social work courses it is a requirement to have undertaken relevant work experience in a social work or social care setting. You can see in the example statement, rather than describing the experience and tasks undertaken, you will need to reflect on how your experience has shaped your motivation to train as a social worker and what you have learned about the role. You will also need to provide specific examples of how you have demonstrated the skills, qualities and professional values of a social worker.

This example should be used for guidance only. Copying any of this text could significantly harm your chances of securing a place on a course.

Masters in social work personal statement example

I gained my first insight into social work while studying a 'Social work perspectives' module during the first year of my degree in health and social care. Learning about the ethics that underpin social work practice challenged my assumptions about the role social workers play, demonstrating the importance of the role for empowering vulnerable people and coordinating support to overcome challenges to health, safety and wellbeing.

I was able to observe this in practice during my placement at a supported living service for young people with learning disabilities. Social workers were integral to enabling the young people to safely transition to independent living, advocating for them to secure appropriate accommodation, coordinating access to disability services and providing support to develop independent living skills and money management. Without this advocacy, many of the young people may never have had the opportunity to live independently.

I have recently started a placement working with a local mental health charity, spent a year volunteering with Citizens Advice and am currently volunteering with the Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT). Through these experiences I have observed the challenges faced by different groups of people, many of which can be alleviated or managed through empowerment of individuals and access to the right support. Becoming a social worker would enable me to work with diverse groups and support them to overcome these challenges and live more successfully within our society.

Through my experience, I have responded to individuals with empathy and respect and have demonstrated that I can uphold the values and ethical principles of the social work profession, while resiliently managing the challenges of working under pressure and supporting those who may not always be receptive to me. As a volunteer adviser at Citizens Advice I was often the first point of contact for individuals facing stressful and time-pressured problems, such as eviction or debt. I responded calmly and focused on the issues at hand, taking a non-judgemental approach to the individual's circumstances by clearly explaining why I was asking particular questions and how this would enable me to direct them to the appropriate support. At PACT, I facilitate family play sessions with prisoners and their children. I have taken the time to build rapport with the individual and their families; focusing on the person's identity as a parent and ways I can support them to feel they have a positive societal role. As a social worker it is important to treat people holistically while promoting dignity and wellbeing, these examples show my potential to respond in a positive, impartial way regardless of people's circumstances.

Many of my interactions at the mental health charity are with individuals in challenging circumstances, who are reluctant to seek help from external services due to poor past experiences. Many of my interactions have been with people who are angry, frustrated or suspicious. I take the time to listen to their concerns, provide reassurance and identify an initial starting point. When faced with particularly challenging or complex cases I do not hesitate to seek advice from colleagues or request a referral, always involving the individual in this process. These experiences have enabled me to recognise the importance of multi-disciplinary teams to meet complex and multi-faceted needs. These interactions have better prepared me to work with people who may present in a challenging way due to their circumstances and have helped me to develop the resilience to manage those interactions professionally and calmly.

My degree has prepared me for both the academic study and practice elements of the MSc in Social work. The interdisciplinary nature of my degree has introduced me to approaches from sociology, philosophy, health, policy and psychology, which provide a strong foundation to build upon in the social work course. In safeguarding modules I was introduced to the legal and policy frameworks underpinning practice when analysing a number of recent serious case reviews. This developed my ability to analyse complex situations where the application of law and policy is not always straightforward. Undertaking practice placements will enable me to further develop and apply this knowledge to real scenarios, building my confidence in making effective, evidence-informed decisions.

My dissertation project evaluated the impact of a local mental health charity's peer support programme, enabling me to develop a strong understanding of the ethics of participant research. I developed the methodology, completed the literature review and carried out primary research. This has prepared me with the core academic skills to evaluate research and develop evidence informed approaches during the Masters course.

Undertaking placements and volunteering alongside my degree has seen me organise my time effectively, consistently meeting coursework deadlines and completing work to a standard that has put me on track to achieve a 2:1, while receiving positive feedback from placements on my reliability. This demonstrates my ability to successfully balance academic work alongside the demands of practice placements during the Masters.

My work experience has motivated me to pursue a social work career in mental health, advocating for those who may not be in a position to advocate for themselves. The course will equip me with tools and approaches for working with service users in a range of circumstances, from those in crisis to those who need practical support to manage their condition in the community. I particularly look forward to professional placements where I can apply my learning while supported by experienced practitioners to navigate this complex area of social work. The MSc in Social work will build upon the knowledge and skills gained through my degree and experience, equipping me to undertake this challenging and demanding role.

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  • Search for postgraduate courses in social work .
  • Take a look at the social worker job profile.
  • Discover more about social work courses .
  • Learn more about personal statements for postgraduate applications .
  • Read up on the BASWs Code of Ethics for Social Workers .

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Application Essay Guidelines

Apply Now button image links to application website https://ubgradconnect.buffalo.edu.

Your personal statement essay is an important component of your application. The essay must include critically reflective responses to the below four (or five, if applicable) questions. 

Required Essay Questions

  • Briefly, yet critically, discuss a social issue or problem that is important to you and motivates your decision to pursue an MSW degree.
  • A key part of the UB School of Social Work’s mission is promoting social justice as one of the six core social work values outlined in the Code of Ethics. Please discuss how your lived experience has contributed to your understanding of social justice. In your response, you may include how race or other factors have impacted your life, whether through discrimination, inspiration or otherwise.
  • Tell us why you are pursuing the profession of social work at this time, and why the UB School of Social Work's MSW degree program is a good match for you.
  • What personal skills and knowledge, and/or professional and academic experiences have prepared you for a graduate level social work degree program?
  • Undergraduate GPA below 3.0; 
  • Low or failing grades (for example, D, F, U); 
  • Been on academic probation; 
  • Dismissed from, or denied readmission to any college or department major,

Please explain the issue(s) and  be specific  as to how you have addressed it and your readiness to move into graduate level study.

Formatting your Essay

  • DO NOT use a question and answer format. Write a full essay answering ALL questions above.
  • Questions may be answered in any order to fit the narrative of your essay. 
  • Your essay should be double spaced, in 12-point font. 
  • Please keep your answers to the first four questions to no more than 7 pages double-spaced.  

Question 2 is optional for spring 2024 applicants.  All current questions are required for applicants for summer and fall 2024 and beyond. 

(updated tips video coming soon)

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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 July 3, 2023.

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:

  • Your personality: what are your interests, values, and motivations?
  • Your talents: what can you bring to the program?
  • Your goals: what do you hope the program will do for you?

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

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, other interesting articles.

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:

  • A personal experience that changed your perspective
  • A story from your family’s history
  • A memorable teacher or learning experience
  • An unusual or unexpected encounter

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:

  • Is it a longstanding passion or a recent discovery?
  • Does it come naturally or have you had to work hard at it?
  • How does it fit into the rest of your life?
  • What do you think it contributes to society?

Tips for the introduction

  • Don’t start on a cliche: avoid phrases like “Ever since I was a child…” or “For as long as I can remember…”
  • Do save the introduction for last. If you’re struggling to come up with a strong opening, leave it aside, and note down any interesting ideas that occur to you as you write the rest of the personal statement.

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.

  • What first sparked your interest in the field?
  • Which classes, assignments, classmates, internships, or other activities helped you develop your knowledge and skills?
  • Where do you want to go next? How does this program fit into your future plans?

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.

  • Is your social, cultural or economic background underrepresented in the field? Show how your experiences will contribute a unique perspective.
  • Do you have gaps in your resume or lower-than-ideal grades? Explain the challenges you faced and how you dealt with them.

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.

  • Reflect on the topics or themes that you’ve focused on in your studies. What draws you to them?
  • Discuss any academic achievements, influential teachers, or other highlights of your education.
  • Talk about the questions you’d like to explore in your research and why you think they’re important.

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.

  • If your career is just getting started, show how your character is suited to the field, and explain how graduate school will help you develop your talents.
  • If you have already worked in the profession, show what you’ve achieved so far, and explain how the program will allow you to take the next step.
  • If you are planning a career change, explain what has driven this decision and how your existing experience will help you succeed.

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

  • Don’t rehash your resume by trying to summarize everything you’ve done so far; the personal statement isn’t about listing your academic or professional experience, but about reflecting, evaluating, and relating it to broader themes.
  • Do make your statements into stories: Instead of saying you’re hard-working and self-motivated, write about your internship where you took the initiative to start a new project. Instead of saying you’ve always loved reading, reflect on a novel or poem that changed your perspective.

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

  • Don’t summarize what you’ve already said. You have limited space in a personal statement, so use it wisely!
  • Do think bigger than yourself: try to express how your individual aspirations relate to your local community, your academic field, or society more broadly. It’s not just about what you’ll get out of graduate school, but about what you’ll be able to give back.

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.

If you want to know more about college essays , academic writing , and AI tools , make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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How to Write a Strong Personal Statement for Graduate School

  • by Heidi Kerr and Paul David Terry
  • November 10, 2020

A student sits on his laptop at the Silo at UC Davis.

You’ve made the exciting decision to pursue a graduate degree. Congratulations! There are a wide range of graduate programs to explore , and once you’ve selected the right program for you, it’s time to begin the graduate application process. 

The statement of purpose and personal history statement are key components of the UC Davis graduate school application . With fewer than 4,000 characters allowed for each essay, these statements can seem particularly daunting. However, each one has a specific purpose for showcasing your academic journey and creating a holistic application.

Below, we’ve analyzed the differences between the statement of purpose and personal history statement and provided tips for writing these graduate school admissions essays. 

Statement of Purpose and Personal History: What’s the Difference?

A student examines chemicals through a beaker while wearing a lab coat and goggles.

The statement of purpose shares your academic objectives with the admissions committee and explains why you want to obtain a graduate degree. The personal history statement provides background about who you are and how your experiences have shaped your interests and ability to overcome challenges. Each essay has specific goals to showcase your experience, passion and story. 

How to Write a Strong Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose should highlight your academic preparation , motivation and interests, along with any specializations and career goals that contribute to your program of study. As you write your statement of purpose, it should encompass some of the following:

  • Academic and research experiences - Include any relevant academic studies or research pursuits, internships or employment, presentations, publications, teaching, and travel or study abroad experiences that prepare you for this graduate program. Explain your motivation or passion for these experiences and how they can enrich your graduate study.
  • Interests, specializations, and career goals - Highlight your research interests, disciplinary subfields, area(s) of specialization, and professional objectives.
  • Fit - Explain how your preparation, experiences, and interests match the specific resources and characteristics of your graduate program at UC Davis. Identify specific faculty within your desired graduate program with whom you would like to work and how their interests match your own.

The statement of purpose should also address why you want to pursue the particular graduate degree program at the university and what your goals are in pursuing a degree. Remember, the statement of purpose should explain exactly that, your purpose for becoming a graduate student. This is the primary way it stands apart from your personal history statement. 

What to Include in Your Personal History Statement

A student smiles as she inspects yellow liquid underneath a microscope, while her professor watches on.

The personal history statement helps the reader learn more about you as an individual and potential graduate student. Use this opportunity to describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Tell a story that  includes any experiences, challenges or opportunities relevant to your academic journey. Consider how your life experiences contribute to the social, intellectual, or cultural diversity within a campus community and your chosen field.

A strong personal history statement begins with an authentic voice and personal narrative. This can reflect your journey to graduate school, any obstacles you’ve encountered, and how you've overcome challenges. Talk about your personal goals and dreams. Explain what motivates and drives you toward this degree. The more your personal statement tells your school about you as an individual, the more it will stand out. Don't write something to impress someone else. This includes language, style and tone. Authenticity is important and resonates well. Tell the truth, in your voice, from your perspective. Use your story to connect.

More Tips and Resources for Applying to Graduate School

Applying to graduate school may be daunting to some, but UC Davis has a variety of resources to help you create a strong graduate school application. Check out the Applying to Graduate School: A Guide and Handbook for ideas and worksheets on how to construct your essays. Or visit our Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services website for more graduate school prep resources. 

Paul David Terry is the assistant director of special interest and affinity networks and alumni diversity lead at the Cal Aggie Alumni Association. He oversees the UC Davis Health Improving OUTcomes blog and enjoys cycling and brewing ginger beer.

Heidi Kerr works as the content and media manager at UC Davis’ Graduate Studies. She has worked as a communications professional at multiple higher education institutions and is passionate about promoting student success.

The authors acknowledge current and former leaders from Pre-Graduate/Law Advising in Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services, especially Annalisa Teixeira, Ph.D. and Cloe Le Gall-Scoville, Ph.D., who granted us permission to reference Applying to Graduate School: A Guide and Workbook .

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How to Write a Winning Personal Statement

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  •       Resources       Writing a Winning Personal Statement for Grad School

Writing a Winning Personal Statement for Grad School Tips and Advice for Standing Out as a Graduate Program Candidate

Applying to graduate school can be a significant step toward reaching academic and career goals, which can make the admissions process even more intimidating. Along with gathering letters of recommendation, taking exams and submitting transcripts, prospective graduate students typically have to write personal statements to include with their applications. The personal statement is an oft-elusive element of the grad school application, but it fulfills a specific and significant need in the eyes of admissions committees. By learning about the personal statement and its role, getting familiar with this essay's key elements and soaking in tons of advice from an admissions expert, graduate school applicants can prepare to write outstanding personal essays that can help them land spots in their ideal graduate programs.

  • What is a Personal Statement?
  • Personal Statement Components
  • How to Write a Winning Statement

Personal Statement Example

Additional resources, what's the personal statement on a grad school app.

Graduate school applications often have prospective students include personal statements. These help admissions committees get to know the person behind each application. A personal statement is a short essay that introduces a grad school candidate and his or her personal reasons for applying to a particular program. While metrics such as GPA and test scores can give an admissions committee an idea of a student's qualifications, they are impersonal and don't indicate whether a candidate would be a good fit for a given program. "Metrics only show one small part of the entire picture," says career coach and former university admissions representative Meg Radunich. "Graduate programs care about the person behind the standardized test score and grade point average. A personal statement is the only part of the application where a candidate gets to make their own case for what they can add to the cohort of incoming first year students."

personal statements for social work graduate school

Students may get applications that ask for statements of purpose, or statements of intent, as well as personal statements. With such similar names, it's no surprise that many students wonder whether there is a difference. Depending on the program and writing prompt, a personal statement and a statement of purpose may fill the same need in the eyes of the admissions committee. In cases where both are required, however, things can get a little tricky. In general, the statement of purpose focuses more on a student's reasons for applying to that particular graduate program and may address topics such as career and research goals, how his or her academic track record demonstrates qualification for that particular school or program of study and how a given program will impact the student's future.

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By contrast, personal statements usually lend more freedom when it comes to content and form and are intended to give the admissions committee a glimpse into a candidate's personality. This narrative essay combines specific, self-reflective anecdotes with details about past experiences (internships, volunteer experiences, etc.) and a clear delineation of a student's goals and interest in the prospective graduate program to provide a fuller picture of the applicant. This combination, often unaccompanied by an explicit writing prompt or set of instructions, can make even the most practiced essay writers freeze up. Familiarizing themselves with the ins and outs of writing strong personal statements for graduate school can alleviate stress and ease the process of sending out those applications.

Components of a Successful Personal Statement

Because personal statements are individual to the applicant, there is no one-size-fits-all way to write them. However, there are a few key elements of strong personal statements that prospective graduate students should keep in mind as they write.

  • Broad Understanding
  • Vulnerability and Sincerity
  • Awareness of Audience
  • Individuality

When writing personal statements, students may feel pressured to tell admissions committees everything about themselves. People are multifaceted, and it seems extra important to hit all your personality highlights and accomplishments. However, the personal essay isn't meant to be an autobiography or a long-form reiteration of the applicant's resume. "One major mistake I see all the time is students who try to tell too much in the personal statement," says Radunich. "Tell one or two specific stories or scenarios really well instead of having a broad focus and attempting to tell your life story. The goal of the essay is to get an interview, one-on-one face time that will you allow you to divulge more. Use that personal statement to tease them just enough so they feel like they need to get you in for an interview to learn the rest of your story."

  • An MFA program applicant could build his statement around a sculpture class reluctantly taken during sophomore year of undergraduate study that encouraged him to experiment and ultimately changed his art style and approach. This is more telling and interesting than meandering through a lifelong love of art that began at childhood.
  • Students should try to keep the scope of their personal statements within the past few years, as admissions committees are generally most interested in applicants' undergraduate experiences.

The best personal statements have clear purposes and easily draw readers in. Students should be cautious about turning their personal statements into risky or edgy creative writing projects and instead maintain a strong narrative structure using anecdotes for support when necessary. "Everyone loves a coming-of-age story," Radunich says. "Remember that the faculty have a vested interest in admitting students who will be fun for them to work with and watch grow." Applicants should determine which key points about themselves are most important to make and then choose situations or experiences that demonstrate those points. This serves as the main content of the personal statement. It's important that students remember to keep anecdotes relevant to the specific programs to which they are applying and to make it clear how the experiences led them to those programs.

  • A prospective engineering student who volunteered abroad might set the scene by writing about how working with members of the local community who had their own innovations based on supplies that were readily available in their area, like flip phone batteries and dismantled mopeds, challenged her exclusively Western understanding of infrastructure and exposed holes in her knowledge.
  • She could follow up with brief but concrete examples that showcase both hard and soft skills relevant to her program of study, like how experience as a resident assistant affirmed her desire to help people, and her senior thesis project pushed her to reach out to others and collaborate for the sake of better research.

Along with a focused narrative, grad school applicants should demonstrate for the admissions committee why they want to attend this program and how doing so relates to their place academically, locally and globally. Radunich notes that strong personal statements show that candidates understand the "big picture" of the profession and the true meaning and impact they will have in their communities.

Applicants often feel as if they have to show how highly accomplished and impressive they are in their personal statements, but Radunich stresses the significance of being honest and vulnerable. "It helps the reader connect. Admissions deans read enough essays from 23-year-old applicants who brag about their accomplishments and think they have life figured out." Acknowledging faults or weaknesses shows the committee that an applicant is self-aware, teachable and eager to grow.

  • "One medical school candidate I worked with wanted to become a psychiatrist due to her own personal experience with anxiety in high school," recalls Radunich. "Instead of hiding this experience, she owned it. Her personal statement was phenomenal as a result."
  • Vulnerability should be presented as something that leads to growth rather than an excuse for doing poorly in certain academic areas.

Strong personal statements demonstrate awareness of audience and how content may be received. Radunich advises applicants to think about their essays from admissions deans' perspectives: What would and wouldn't you want to read it if you were in their shoes? As they write, students should remember that admissions personnel must read many personal statements and sort through thousands of applications. Being conscious of how words or stories may be perceived by those with experiences different from their own can be invaluable to students.

  • Radunich cites a time when she worked with a student who wrote about her experience providing medical care in a developing country as part of her medical school application: "The student had good intentions, but in writing she sounded patronizing and even condescending when describing her interactions with patients. She had no idea. Remember that people who see the world differently from you will be reading this essay."

One of the biggest keys to writing a successful personal statement is in the name itself. This essay is meant to be personal and completely unique to the writer. "You have full control over this part of your application," Radunich says, urging students to avoid coming across as desperate in their essays. "Fight the urge to ‘shape shift' into whom you think that program wants you to be. You're not going to be a perfect fit for every single graduate program. Be you, and if a graduate program doesn't get it, you most likely aren't going to be happy in that program for the next three or more years." Many applicants may have similar metrics, but each student has different experiences to write about in a personal statement. Students should commit to their experiences and own them rather than err too far on the side of safety, something Radunich says is a common pitfall.

  • "Students also make a mistake when they play it safe and write personal statements that have been played out. For example, medical students tend to cite experiencing illnesses, watching family members struggle with their health or wanting to help people as the reason why they want to become a doctor. Admissions deans have to read thousands of these. Make it personal and offbeat. Give them something new to read."

Applicants must take time to ensure their personal statements are tight and free of errors. Radunich stresses the importance of proofreading. "Do not even bother sending in an application with a personal statement that has spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. This personal statement is a reflection of the quality of work you will submit for the program."

One of the hardest parts of writing a personal statement is getting started. These steps and strategies can help prospective graduate students push through the initial hesitation and get on their way to writing winning personal statements.

  • Read the instructions. Some applications provide little in the way of guidance, asking prospective students to expand on why they want to apply to the program or supply information on their backgrounds and interests. Others, however, give specific guidelines on content, format, word count and submission method. It's crucial that applicants read and understand what is expected of their personal statements. It won't matter how beautifully crafted the statement is if it doesn't address the prompt or disregards stated length requirements.
  • Self-reflect. Before sitting down to write, students should spend a good amount of time thinking about their strengths and what they want to convey to admissions committees. Radunich says it's essential for students to really dwell on what makes them special. "Take time to reflect on your personal brand. What qualities do you bring to a cohort of graduate students that this program doesn't know they need?" When students are confident in their positive qualities, it can make it easier to convince admissions officers the value they bring to any given graduate program.
  • Talk to friends and family. Sometimes figuring out how to write about oneself or what elements to highlight can be tough. Radunich says that this is where friends and family can be extremely helpful. She recommends talking those who know you best. "Ask the people who have been with you throughout your journey to provide feedback on who you are and what they've observed. Use them to provide feedback on what you have to offer a graduate program. How would they describe you in five words? This is your ‘essence self' — what makes you stand apart from others."
  • Be authentic. "We hear this all the time, but it's the best advice," says Radunich. "Admissions personnel can smell a phony. They know when you're using words outside of your vocabulary or when you're exaggerating what an experience meant to you. They read thousands of personal statements per year and also see which applicants show up as the people they said they were once they're admitted. Don't sell yourself to an admissions panel; present a polished yet real account of who you are and what you care about. This way, the right school will recognize what you bring to the table."
  • Keep it relevant. The focus should remain on why the student is qualified and wants to apply to that particular program. Admissions personnel want to get familiar with their applicants, but they mostly want to make sure they choose students who value the program and have specific reasons for applying. For instance, a student may be drawn to a program because one or two faculty members conduct research that aligns with that student's interests. That is something worth mentioning in a statement. Anecdotes and stories bring a personal element, but it's also important to include practical, academic- and career-focused details, too.
  • Get feedback from outside sources. It's helpful for students to ask other people to read their personal statements. As Radunich points out, this can help students see how their statements may be perceived by others, and another set of eyes can help a student determine whether or not the essay is engaging and well-organized. Friends, family members, teachers and writing center staff can all be great resources.
  • Use specific examples. Grad school applicants should do their best to avoid using general statements or listing their experiences and qualifications. "Use specific examples and strong storytelling to pull the reader into your life and care about you by the end," suggests Radunich. "For example, if you're applying to medical school, give us one specific, personal story about something that happened while volunteering at the hospital that changed your worldview, challenged you and confirmed your goal of being a doctor."
  • Address potential shortcomings. The personal statement is an excellent opportunity for a candidate whose metrics aren't top notch to stand out and plead his or her case. "If the student earned less-than-stellar grades during their undergraduate education," notes Radunich, "(the student) can provide some context in the personal statement." Students may not feel this is necessary or be comfortable with this, but it is an option. Applicants should be cautious about how they address any weak points; explanations should not sound like excuses but should be framed in a way that demonstrates perseverance, improvement or the learning that followed those challenges.
  • Use space efficiently. Personal statements are generally pretty short, often ranging between 500 and 1,000 words. This means that filler words and phrases, such as "the truth is," or "it's my personal belief that," take up valuable space that could be used to compel admissions into requesting an interview. It's important to convey a clear image in a few paragraphs, so be both concise and precise. In statements allowing longer word counts, keep in mind that more isn't always better. Admissions committees read thousands of personal essays each year, and longer ones may be at greater risk of being skimmed through rather than thoroughly read.
  • Draft, edit, repeat. Depending on the program, a student's personal statement can carry considerable weight. It shouldn't be thrown together at the last minute. Allowing for adequate time to write multiple drafts, edit and thoroughly proofread is a must. Have other people proofread and check for grammar before sending in the application; they may catch errors that were glossed over in earlier drafts.

Writing a personal statement can be intimidating, which may make it difficult for applicants to get started. Having enough time to ruminate and write is also valuable and can give students the opportunity to choose a strong point of view rather than feel pushed to write about the first thing that comes to mind. Radunich emphasizes that students who aren't sure what to write about or how to approach writing about themselves should do some considerable brainstorming and get input from those who know them well. Students are often self-critical, especially in high-stakes situations, and they may not realize the positive qualities they may have that stand out to others.

Radunich also offers tips for getting in the mindset of admissions personnel: "They're reading the personal statement and gauging the candidate's fitness for the program. Can this person deal with stress and persevere? Does he/she have grit? Has this person overcome adversity, and does that give us confidence that they can handle the three demanding years of law school? Can this person handle receiving feedback, or will he/she drop out after the slightest bit of challenge or criticism? Can this student tolerate differing viewpoints and be open to growth?" Considering these questions can help guide students through the writing process.

It may also help students to look at example personal statements and see how these key considerations play out in an actual essay. Take a look at this example personal statement from a prospective grad student.

As I approached the convention hall, I wondered if I had gotten the room number wrong. I couldn't hear any signs of life, and I was losing my nerve to open the door and risk embarrassing myself. As I imagined a security guard striding up and chiding me for being somewhere I shouldn't be, a hand reached past me and pushed the door open, jolting me back to the real world. I peeked in. More hands. Hundreds of them. Hands were flying, waving, articulating, dancing . I was at once taken by awe and fear.

You can do this.

I had never planned on taking American Sign Language, and I certainly hadn't planned on it taking my heart. In my first term of college, I signed up for German, a language I had loved the sound of since I was a child. A week before classes began, however, the course section was cut. In my frustration, I decided I would take the first available language class in the course register. In hindsight, that probably wasn't the smartest approach, but it was a decision that completely altered my supposedly set-in-stone plan of becoming a linguist. The complexities of nonverbal language floored me, and I found myself thinking about hand signs while writing essays on Saussure's linguistic signs. I rearranged my schedule so I could take improv classes to help with my facial and body expressions. Theater! That was completely out of character, but I suddenly found myself compelled toward anything that would help immerse me in ASL and deaf culture.

Except actually getting involved in the community.

I knew going to my first deaf convention would be intimidating. My hands shake when I'm anxious, and nothing brings on nerves quite like throwing yourself into a situation where you are a total outsider. Between my limited vocabulary, quaking fingers and fear-frozen face, would anyone be able to understand me? What was I doing here? I had been studying American Sign Language for nearly three years and had somehow managed to avoid spontaneous conversation with the deaf community, and I was terrified. Workbook exercises and casual conversations with classmates — who had roughly the same ASL vocabulary and relied on the same linguistic crutches as I did — had become increasingly comfortable, but immersing myself in deaf culture and community was something entirely different. I was afraid. However, American Sign Language and deaf studies had captured my heart, and I knew this fear was a huge barrier I needed to get past in order to continue working toward my goal of becoming an advocate and deaf studies educator.

It must have been pretty obvious that I was both hearing and petrified, because I was immediately greeted by someone who, very formally and slowly, asked if I was a student and offered to accompany me. This small gesture is representative of how I became so fond of deaf culture in such a short period of time. The hearing community tends toward posturing, indirect communication and a sometimes isolating emphasis on individualism, and my limited experiences within the deaf community have been the opposite. The straightforward communication that exists in a beautifully nuanced and perspicacious language and the welcoming enthusiasm to grow the community is something I intend to be part of. I am an outsider, and I have much to learn, but I want to do everything I can to encourage understanding and exchange between the deaf and hearing communities and make hearing spaces more inclusive, especially for those who have more experience as outsiders than I do.

My devotion to language and learning about culture through communication hasn't changed, but the path by which I want to pursue that passion has. My foray into deaf studies and American Sign Language may have started as an accident, but no matter how nervous I still get when my fingers fumble or I have to spell something out, I am humbled and grateful that this accident led me to a calling that could have remained unheard my whole life.

Brainstorming is an important step in writing a convincing personal essay, and Coggle may be just the tool to help. Coggle is a mind-mapping app that helps users organize their thoughts in visual, nonlinear ways. Users can easily share with collaborators, such as writing coaches, advisers or friends.

Inspiration may strike at any time. Students can make sure they're prepared to jot down any personal statement ideas, gather inspiration and organize their thoughts with Evernote , a popular note-taking app.

Writing personal statements requires distraction-free writing time. However, most students do their writing on their most distracting devices. FocusWriter is a simple tool that helps mitigate the distraction problem by hiding computer interfaces and substituting a clean, clear digital writing environment.

This web browser add-on makes checking grammar quick and easy. Grammarly scans users' text and provides context-specific suggestions and corrections. Detailed explanations of each suggestion help users improve their writing over time.

This subject-specific book is a guide to writing personal statements for graduate school. It includes tons of tips and examples to help students write their application essays.

Microsoft's OneNote app is one of the most popular among those who like to use outlines to gather and organize their thoughts, but its many features make it a great prewriting tool for writers of all organizational preferences.

Mindomo can help grad school candidates brainstorm and pinpoint key elements to include in their personal statements. The app's mind maps, concept maps and outlines help users easily visualize and organize their ideas.

Students who are looking for an advanced editing tool to help them power through their grad school applications might want to look into ProWritingAid , a comprehensive application that helps with basic and advanced editing and addresses issues in style, word choice and structure.

The academic writing standby, Purdue OWL , weighs in on the 10 essential dos and don'ts of personal statement writing.

The UNR Writing Center offers this extensive, alphabetized list of tips on writing, from academic voice to writing introductions, to help with the writing process. Students should also consider consulting their own undergraduate schools' campus writing centers for help as well.

UNC provides specific guidance for students writing personal statements and other significant academic essays. The guidance on this page is not exclusive to UNC, so students from many different schools may find these tips helpful.

Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences provides this online manual to help students understand and successfully write personal statements and other graduate admissions and scholarship essays. The easy-to-navigate chapters provide many examples and tips to meet a range of criteria.

personal statements for social work graduate school

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.

  • What are the key points you want to communicate about yourself?
  • What personal characteristics or skills do you have that make you a strong candidate for this field?
  • What exactly are your career goals, and how does graduate school play into them?
  • What have you learned about this field already? When did you first choose to follow this path, and what do you enjoy about it?
  • What do you think is important for the admissions board to know specifically about you?
  • Are there any discrepancies or causes for concern in your application you need to address? For example, is there a career and schooling gap, or a low GPA at one point? This is the time to discuss whether a personal hardship may have affected your academics or career.
  • Have you dealt with any unusual obstacles or difficulties in your life? How have they affected and shaped you?
  • What sets you apart and makes you unique from other graduate school applicants?
  • What factors in your life have brought you to where you are today?

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.

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Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School

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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 .

  • What experiences and academic preparation do you have that are relevant to the degree you’re seeking?
  • Why are you choosing to pursue a graduate degree at this time?
  • Why do you want to pursue this particular degree and how will this degree and the specific program fit into your career plans and your long-term goals?
  • What specific topics are you aiming to explore and what does the current literature say about those topics?

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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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.

  • Check your responses from the exercises in the self-assessment section. You may wish to consult notes from your informational interviews and your Seven Stories . Write concise summaries and stories that demonstrate your strengths, e.g. how your strengths helped you to achieve certain goals or overcome obstacles.
  • Summarize your research experience(s). What were the main project goals and the “big picture” questions? What was your role in this project? What did you accomplish? What did you learn, and how did you grow as a result of the experience(s)?

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

  • Identify weaknesses or unusual aspects in your application—e.g., a significant drop in your GPA during a term; weak GRE scores; changes in your academic trajectory, etc. Don’t ignore them, because ignoring them might be interpreted as blind spots for you. If you’re unsure if a particular issue is significant enough to address, seek advice from faculty mentors.
  • Explain how you’ll improve and strengthen those areas or work around your weakness. Determine how you will address them in a positive light, e.g., by discussing how you overcame obstacles through persistence, what you learned from challenges, and how you grew from failures. Focusing on a growth mindset  or grit  and this blog on weaknesses might also help.
  • Deal with any significant unusual aspects later in the statement to allow a positive impression to develop first.
  • Explain, rather than provide excuses—i.e., address the issue directly and don’t blame others (even if you believe someone else is responsible). Draft it and get feedback from others to see if the explanation is working as you want it to.
  • Provide supporting empirical evidence if possible. For example, “Adjusting to college was a major step for me, coming from a small high school and as a first-generation college student. My freshman GPA was not up to par with my typical achievements, as demonstrated by my improved  GPA of 3.8 during my second and third years in college."
  • Be concise (don’t dwell on the issues), but also be complete (don’t lead to other potentially unanswered questions). For example, if a drop in grades during a term was due to a health issue, explain whether the health issue is recurring, managed now with medication, resolved, etc.

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.

  • Descriptions of your commitment should explain why you’re passionate about this particular academic field and provide demonstrations of your commitment with stories (e.g., working long hours to solve a problem, overcoming challenges in research, resilience in pursuing problems). Don’t merely assert your commitment.
  • Explain why you are applying to graduate school, as opposed to seeking a professional degree or a job. Discuss your interest and motivation for grad school, along with your future career aspirations.

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

  • Think in terms of engaging faculty in a conversation rather than pleading with them that you should be admitted. Ask reviewers to read drafts with this concern in mind.
  • With later drafts, try developing an overall narrative theme. See if one emerges as you work.
  • Write at least 10 drafts and expect your thinking and the essay to change quite a bit over time.
  • Read drafts out loud to help you catch errors.
  • Expect the "you' that emerges in your essay to be incomplete. . . that’s OK.
  • You’re sharing a professional/scholarly slice of "you."
  • Avoid humor (do you really know what senior academics find funny?) and flashy openings and closings. Think of pitching the essay to an educated person in the field, but not necessarily in your specialty. Avoid emotionally laden words (such as "love" or "passion"). Remember, your audience is a group of professors! Overly emotional appeals might make them uncomfortable. They are looking for scholarly colleagues.

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Writing a Personal Statement

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Preparing to Write

Brainstorming, don't forget, sample prompts.

A personal statement is a narrative essay that connects your background, experiences, and goals to the mission, requirements, and desired outcomes of the specific opportunity you are seeking. It is a critical component in the selection process, whether the essay is for a competitive internship, a graduate fellowship, or admittance to a graduate school program. It gives the selection committee the best opportunity to get to know you, how you think and make decisions, ways in which past experiences have been significant or formative, and how you envision your future. Personal statements can be varied in form; some are given a specific prompt, while others are less structured. However, in general a personal statement should answer the following questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What are your goals?
  • How does this specific program/opportunity help you achieve your goals?
  • What is in the future?

A personal statement is not:

  • A variation of your college admissions essay
  • An academic/research paper
  • A narrative version of your resume
  • A creative writing piece (it can be creative, though)
  • An essay about somebody else

Keep in mind that your statement is only a portion of the application and should be written with this in mind. Your entire application package will include some, possibly all, of the materials listed below. You will want to consider what these pieces of the application communicate about you. Your personal statement should aim to tie everything together and fill in or address any gaps. There will likely be some overlap but be sure not to be too repetitive.

  • Personal Statement(s)
  • Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendations
  • Sample of written work
  • Research proposal

Preparing to Write A large portion of your work towards completing a personal statement begins well before your first draft or even an outline. It is incredibly important to be sure you understand all of the rules and regulations around the statement. Things to consider before you begin writing:

  • How many prompts? And what are they? It is important to know the basics so you can get your ideas in order. Some programs will require a general statement of interest and a focused supplementary or secondary statement closely aligned with the institution's goals.
  • Are there formatting guidelines? Single or double spaced, margins, fonts, text sizes, etc. Our general guideline is to keep it simple.
  • How do I submit my statement(s)? If uploading a document we highly suggest using a PDF as it will minimize the chances of accidental changes to formatting. Some programs may event ask you to copy and paste into a text box.
  • When do I have to submit my statement(s)? Most are due at the time of application but some programs, especially medical schools, will ask for secondary statements a few months after you apply. In these instances be sure to complete them within two weeks, any longer is an indication that you aren't that interested in the institution.

Before you start writing, take some time to reflect on your experiences and motivations as they relate to the programs to which you are applying. This will offer you a chance to organize your thoughts which will make the writing process much easier. Below are a list of questions to help you get started:

  • What individuals, experiences or events have shaped your interest in this particular field?
  • What has influenced your decision to apply to graduate school?
  • How does this field align with your interests, strengths, and values?
  • What distinguishes you from other applicants?
  • What would you bring to this program/profession?
  • What has prepared you for graduate study in this field? Consider your classes at Wellesley, research and work experience, including internships, summer jobs and volunteer work.
  • Why are you interested in this particular institution or degree program?
  • How is this program distinct from others?
  • What do you hope to gain?
  • What is motivating you to seek an advanced degree now?
  • Where do you see yourself headed and how will this degree program help you get there?

For those applying to Medical School, if you need a committee letter for your application and are using the Medical Professions Advisory Committee you have already done a lot of heavy lifting through the 2017-2018 Applicant Information Form . Even if you aren't using MPAC the applicant information form is a great place to start.

Another great place to start is through talking out your ideas. You have a number of options both on and off campus, such as: Career Education advisors and mentors ( you can set up an appointment here ), major advisor, family, friends. If you are applying to a graduate program it is especially important to talk with a faculty member in the field. Remember to take good notes so you can refer to them later.

When you begin writing keep in mind that your essay is one of many in the application pool. This is not to say you should exaggerate your experiences to “stand out” but that you should focus on clear, concise writing. Also keep in mind that the readers are considering you not just as a potential student but a future colleague. Be sure to show them examples and experiences which demonstrate you are ready to begin their program.

It is important to remember that your personal statement will take time and energy to complete, so plan accordingly. Every application and statement should be seen as different from one another, even if they are all the same type of program. Each institution may teach you the same material but their delivery or focus will be slightly different.

In addition, remember:

  • Be yourself: You aren’t good at being someone else
  • Tragedy is not a requirement, reflection and depth are
  • Research the institution or organization
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread
  • How to have your personal statement reviewed

The prompts below are from actual applications to a several types of programs. As you will notice many of them are VERY general in nature. This is why it is so important to do your research and reflect on your motivations. Although the prompts are similar in nature the resulting statements would be very different depending on the discipline and type of program, as well as your particular background and reasons for wanting to pursue this graduate degree.

  • This statement should illustrate your academic background and experiences and explain why you would excel in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (UMass Amherst - M.S. in Civil Engineering).
  • Describe your academic and career objectives and how the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies can help you achieve them. Include other considerations that explain why you seek admissions to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and your interests in the environmental field (Yale - Master of Environmental Management).  
  • Please discuss your academic interests and goals. Include your current professional and research interests, as well as your long-range professional objectives. Please be as specific as possible about how your objectives can be met at Clark and do not exceed 800 words (Clark University - M.A. in International Development and Social Change).
  • Write a 500- to 700-word statement that describes your work or research. Discuss how you came to focus on the medium, body of work, or academic area you wish to pursue at the graduate level. Also discuss future directions or goals for your work, and describe how the Master of Fine Arts in Studio (Printmedia) is particularly suited to your professional goals (School of the Art Institute of Chicago - MFA in Studio, Printmaking).
  • Your statement should explain why you want to study economics at the graduate level. The statement is particularly important if there is something unusual about your background and preparation that you would like us to know about you (University of Texas at Austin - Ph.D in Economics).
  • Your personal goal statement is an important part of the review process for our faculty members as they consider your application. They want to know about your background, work experience, plans for graduate study and professional career, qualifications that make you a strong candidate for the program, and any other relevant information (Indiana University Bloomington - M.S.Ed. in Secondary Education).
  • Your autobiographical essay/personal statement is a narrative that outlines significant experiences in your life, including childhood experiences, study and work, your strengths and aspirations in the field of architecture, and why you want to come to the University of Oregon (University of Oregon - Master of Architecture).
  • Personal history and diversity statement, in which you describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. You may refer to any educational, familial, cultural, economic or social experiences, challenges, community service, outreach activities, residency and citizenship, first-generation college status, or opportunities relevant to your academic journey; how your life experiences contribute to the social, intellectual or cultural diversity within a campus community and your chosen field; or how you might serve educationally underrepresented and underserved segments of society with your graduate education (U.C. Davis - M.A. in Linguistics).
  • A Personal Statement specifying your past experiences, reasons for applying, and your areas of interest. It should explain your intellectual and personal goals, why you are interested in pursuing an interdisciplinary degree rather than a more traditional disciplinary one, and how this degree fits into your intellectual and personal future (Rutgers University - Ph.D in Women’s and Gender Studies).
  • Your application requires a written statement to uploaded into your application and is a critical component of your application for admission. This is your opportunity to tell us what excites you about the field of library and information science, and what problems you want to help solve in this field. Please also tell us how your prior experiences have prepared you for this next step toward your career goals and how this program will help you achieve them (University of North Carolina Chapel Hill - Master of Science in Library Science).
  • After watching the video, please describe what strengths and preferences as a learner you have that will facilitate your success in this innovative curriculum. What challenges in our curriculum do you anticipate and what strategies might you use to address these challenges? (MGH Institute of Health Professions PT - They recently redesigned their curriculum)
  • Your personal goal statement should briefly describe how you view the future of the field, what your goals are to be part of that future, and what brought you to pursue an advanced education degree in your chosen field. You may include any other information that you feel might be useful. (Northeastern PT)
  • Personal Statement: In 500 words or less, describe a meaningful educational experience that affected your professional goals and growth and explain how it impacted you. The educational experience does not need to be related to this degree. Focus on the educational experience and not why you think you would be a good professional in this field. (Simmons PT)
  • Personal Statement (500 word minimum): State your reasons for seeking admission to this program at this institution. Include your professional goals, why you want to pursue a career in this field and how admission to this program will assist you in accomplishing those goals. (Regis College Nursing)
  • “Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to this type of program.” (AMCAS)
  • Address the following three questions(Though there is no set limit, most statements are 1–2 pages, single-spaced.): What are your reasons for pursuing this degree? Why do you wish to pursue your degree at this institution? How do you intend to leverage your degree in a career of this field? (Boston University MPH)
  • Please submit a personal statement/statement of purpose of no more than 500 words for the department/degree of choice. Professional degree essays require a clear understanding of the _______ field and how you hope to work within the field. Be sure to proofread your personal statement carefully for spelling and grammar. In your statement, be sure to address the following: what interests you in the field of _____ what interests you in a specific degree program and department at this institution and what interests you in a particular certificate (if applicable). Please also describe how you hope to use your ________ training to help you achieve your career goals. (Columbia PhD in Public Health - Epidemiology)
  • Because each Home Program requires significant original research activities in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, we are interested in obtaining as much information as possible about your previous research experiences. Those who already have such experience are in a better position to know whether they are truly interested in performing ______ research as part of a graduate program. Please include specific information about your research experience in your Statement of Purpose. You may also use the Statement to amplify your comments about your choice of Home Program(s), and how your past experiences and current interests are related to your choice. Personal Statements should not exceed two pages in length (single spaced). Make sure to set your computer to Western European or other English-language setting. We cannot guarantee the ability to access your statement if it is submitted in other fonts. (Stanford Biosciences PhD)
  • Your statement of purpose should describe succinctly your reasons for applying to the Department of ____ at ___ University. It would be helpful to include what you have done to prepare for this degree program. Please describe your research interests, past research experience, future career plans and other details of your background and interests that will allow us to evaluate your ability to thrive in our program. If you have interests that align with a specific faculty member, you may state this in your application. Your statement of purpose should not exceed two pages in length (single spaced). (Stanford Bioengineering PhD)
  • Statement of purpose (Up to one page or 1,000 words): Rather than a research proposal, you should provide a statement of purpose. Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at this institution and your relevant experience and education. Please provide an indication of the area of your proposed research and supervisor(s) in your statement. This will be assessed for the coherence of the statement; evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study; the ability to present a reasoned case in English; and commitment to the subject. (Oxford Inorganic Chemistry - DPhil)

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    Once you've uncovered insights, you can talk about a social justice issue related to your experience and goals. Example: "The research shows that people from South Asian cultures are more receptive to social workers from the same background who understand their needs, yet, there is a lack of South Asian social workers to meet this need." Using research in your personal statement shows ...

  4. Guide to Crafting a Perfect Social Work Personal Statement

    Prepare an Outline and Conduct Research. Create an outline of the points you want to include. Fill in your points with relevant research and examples from your personal and professional experience. Don't worry about having too much research or too many points in your outline. You can always cut it down later.

  5. How to Write an Effective Personal Statement for Grad School

    Let's look at a personal statement of a past MSW applicant: Applicant name: Sally. Experiences: Sally works at a women's shelter and talks about what she learned there. Social Justice Issue: Sally decides to talk about an issue within child welfare. Goal: Sally mentions that she wants to get an MSW so that she can qualify for a job at the ...

  6. Graduate School Admissions: Writing an Effective Personal Statement

    This article focuses on the central role that the personal statement plays in the MSW application process. Strategies are presented for writing an effective statement that will highlight and emphasize applicant strengths congruent with the values of particular Schools of Social Work. The author has chaired the MSW Admissions Committee at the ...

  7. Masters in social work personal statement

    May, 2022. If you'd like to become a social worker but didn't study the subject at undergraduate level then a Masters degree is essential for entry into the profession. You'll need to write a personal statement that coveys your commitment and passion to social work. Writing a personal statement for a vocational postgraduate course, like the MSc ...

  8. Application Essay Guidelines

    Formatting your Essay. DO NOT use a question and answer format. Write a full essay answering ALL questions above. Questions may be answered in any order to fit the narrative of your essay. Your essay should be double spaced, in 12-point font. Please keep your answers to the first four questions to no more than 7 pages double-spaced.

  9. PDF Doctorate Social Work Personal Statement

    In addition to your personal statement, please submit a sample of your scholarly (academic) writing. Writing samples should be a minimum of three double-spaced pages in length. Possible sources for your sample include a published research article, a book chapter, a professional report, or a graduate-level course paper.

  10. MSW Personal Statement Tips & Examples

    Shine The Right Kind of Light on MSW Applications: Tips For Crafting Your Statement Of Purpose. Communicating how your life experience has led you to an interest in social work will go a long way towards convincing schools that you're ready for social work graduate school. Image from Unsplash. Most applicants are excited to apply to a Master ...

  11. PDF Traditional (Non-Advanced Standing) Statement of Purpose

    social work; • Determine the extent to which you are prepared and motivated for graduate education in social work; • Assess how your experiences, social work and non-social work related, have prepared you for graduate studies in social work. • Understand why you chose to apply to the UW-Whitewater School of Social Work; and,

  12. PDF Personal Statement

    Personal Evaluation — Describe why you think you will make a good clinical social work student as well as an effective social worker. Discuss your readiness for rigorous graduate work, your ability to manage the heavy demands of graduate school with your other personal and professional responsibilities, your strengths and weaknesses, and why ...

  13. Social Worker Personal Statement

    As a prospective social work student, I recognised that my own life experiences, both personal and professional, could pave the way for a career devoted to addressing social problems, advocating for vulnerable people, and tackling issues of social injustice. This example personal statement will inspire you to write your own unique social work ...

  14. 10 MSW Personal Statement Examples (with Commentary)

    Commentary: Clarity of Motivation: The essay effectively communicates the candidate's personal experiences and observations of disparities in their community as key motivators for pursuing social work.; Goal-Oriented: Clearly outlines immediate and long-term goals, demonstrating a focused vision for a career in social work.; Understanding of a Social Issue: The candidate's insight into the ...

  15. How to Write Your Personal Statement

    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 ...

  16. Master of Social Work

    The autobiographic statement details your interest in social work, including personal experiences, strengths, values and beliefs that will contribute to your competence as a social worker. The autobiographic statement should be a carefully prepared document that is typed and double-spaced, with 1-inch margins and 10-12 font.

  17. How to Write a Strong Personal Statement for Graduate School

    The more your personal statement tells your school about you as an individual, the more it will stand out. Don't write something to impress someone else. This includes language, style and tone. Authenticity is important and resonates well. Tell the truth, in your voice, from your perspective. Use your story to connect.

  18. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Grad School

    Self-reflect. Before sitting down to write, students should spend a good amount of time thinking about their strengths and what they want to convey to admissions committees. Radunich says it's essential for students to really dwell on what makes them special. "Take time to reflect on your personal brand.

  19. 3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples • Pr

    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:

  20. How to Write a Stand-Out Personal Statement for Your Graduate 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 ...

  21. Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School

    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. By Yale Office of Career Strategy. Day of the week. Academic Year. Summer Hours. M. Monday.

  22. Social Work Personal Statement Examples

    Social Work Personal Statement Example 6. I am applying for a place to study social work because I have always wanted to be able to make a difference to people's lives. With social work I believe I can do this in a caring and supportive way. I have gained some insight into mental health while caring for my grandma and the difficulties she faced ...

  23. How to Write a Graduate School Personal Statement (with example!)

    Personal statements are your chance to get, well, personal. While you should answer the prompt in its entirety, you should also write about yourself. Bring a personal element into your essay like family or a story of you overcoming an obstacle. Ideally, your story should relate to what you're trying to accomplish at your graduate school of ...

  24. Writing Your Personal Statements

    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 ...

  25. Writing a Personal Statement

    A personal statement is a narrative essay that connects your background, experiences, and goals to the mission, requirements, and desired outcomes of the specific opportunity you are seeking. It is a critical component in the selection process, whether the essay is for a competitive internship, a graduate fellowship, or admittance to a graduate school program.