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Writing the Personal Statement

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This handout provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions.

The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories:

1. The general, comprehensive personal statement:

This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms.

2. The response to very specific questions:

Often, business and graduate school applications ask specific questions, and your statement should respond specifically to the question being asked. Some business school applications favor multiple essays, typically asking for responses to three or more questions.

Questions to ask yourself before you write:

  • What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
  • What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
  • When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
  • How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
  • If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
  • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
  • What personal characteristics (for example, integrity, compassion, and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
  • What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
  • Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants?
  • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?

General advice

Answer the questions that are asked

  • If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar.
  • Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. In every case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked.

Tell a story

  • Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.

Be specific

  • Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.

Find an angle

  • If you're like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or a "hook" is vital.

Concentrate on your opening paragraph

  • The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement.

Tell what you know

  • The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Too many people graduate with little or no knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession or field they hope to enter. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you've read, seminars you've attended, or any other source of specific information about the career you want and why you're suited to it. Since you will have to select what you include in your statement, the choices you make are often an indication of your judgment.

Don't include some subjects

  • There are certain things best left out of personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school or earlier are generally not a good idea. Don't mention potentially controversial subjects (for example, controversial religious or political issues).

Do some research, if needed

  • If a school wants to know why you're applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.

Write well and correctly

  • Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.

Avoid clichés

  • A medical school applicant who writes that he is good at science and wants to help other people is not exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements.

For more information on writing a personal statement, see the personal statement vidcast .

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How to Write a Personal Statement (with Tips and Examples)

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Hannah Yang

How to write a personal statement

Table of Contents

What is a personal statement, 6 tips on how to write a personal statement, personal statement examples (for college and university), faqs about writing personal statements, conclusion on how to write a personal statement.

How do you tell someone who you are in just a few hundred words?

It’s certainly no easy task, but it’s one almost every college applicant must do. The personal statement is a crucial part of any college or university application.

So, how do you write a compelling personal statement?

In this article, we’ll give you all the tools, tips, and examples you need to write an effective personal statement.

A personal statement is a short essay that reveals something important about who you are. It can talk about your background, your interests, your values, your goals in life, or all of the above.

Personal statements are required by many college admission offices and scholarship selection committees. They’re a key part of your application, alongside your academic transcript, standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities.

The reason application committees ask you to write a personal statement is so they can get to know who you are. 

Some personal statements have specific prompts, such as “Discuss a period of personal growth in your life” or “Tell us about a challenge or failure you’ve faced.” Others are more open-ended with prompts that essentially boil down to “Tell us about yourself.”

No matter what the prompt is, your goal is the same: to make yourself stand out to the selection committee as a strong candidate for their program.

Here are some things a personal statement can be:

It can be funny. If you have a great sense of humor, your personal statement is a great place to let that shine.  

It can be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to open up about hardships in your life or failures you’ve experienced. Showing vulnerability can make you sound more like a real person rather than just a collection of application materials.  

It can be creative. Candidates have got into top schools with personal statements that take the form of “a day in the life” descriptions, third-person short stories, and even cooking recipes.

Now we’ve talked about what a personal statement is, let’s quickly look at what a personal statement isn’t:

It isn’t a formal academic paper. You should write the personal statement in your natural voice, using first-person pronouns like “I” and “me,” not in the formal, objective language you would use to write an academic paper.

It isn’t a five-paragraph essay. You should use as many paragraphs as you need to tell your story instead of sticking to the essay structure you learned in school.

It isn’t a resumé. You should try to describe yourself by telling a clear and cohesive story rather than providing a jumbled list of all of your accomplishments and ambitions.

personal statement definition

Here are our top six tips for writing a strong personal statement.

Tip 1: Do Some Serious Self-Reflection

The hardest part of writing a personal statement isn’t the actual process of writing it.

Before you start typing, you have to figure out what to write about. And that means taking some time to reflect on who you are and what’s important in your life.

Here are some useful questions you can use to start your self-reflection. You can either answer these on your own by writing down your answers, or you can ask a trusted friend to listen as you talk about them together.

What were the key moments that shaped your life? (e.g. an important friendship, a travel experience, an illness or injury)

What are you proud of? (e.g. you’re a good listener, you always keep your promises, you’re a talented musician)

How do you choose to spend your time? (e.g. reading, practicing soccer, spending time with your friends)

What inspires you? (e.g. your grandmother, a celebrity, your favorite song)

Doing this self-reflection is crucial for figuring out the perfect topics and anecdotes you can use to describe who you are.

Tip 2: Try to Avoid Cliché Topics

College application committees read thousands of personal statements a year. That means there are some personal statement topics they see over and over again.

Here are a few examples of common personal statement topics that have become cliché:

Winning a tournament or sports game

Volunteering in a foreign country

Moving to a new home

Becoming an older sibling

Being an immigrant or having immigrant parents

If you want to make a strong impression in the application process, you need to make your personal statement stand out from the crowd.

But if your chosen personal statement topic falls into one of these categories, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t use it. Just make sure to put a unique spin on it so it still delivers something the committee hasn’t seen before.

what should be put in a personal statement

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Tip 3: Show, Don’t Tell

One common mistake you might make in your personal statement is to simply tell the reader what you want them to know about you, such as by stating “I have a fear of public speaking” or “I love to cook.”

Instead of simply stating these facts, you should show the committee what you’re talking about through a story or scene, which will make your essay much more immersive and memorable.

For example, let’s say you want the committee to know you overcame your fear of public speaking. Instead of writing “I overcame my fear of public speaking,” show them what it was like to be onstage in front of a microphone. Did your palms get clammy? Did you feel light-headed? Did you forget your words?

Or let’s say you want the committee to know you love to cook. Instead of writing “I love to cook,” show them why you love to cook. What’s your favorite dish to cook? What does the air smell like when you’re cooking it? What kitchen appliances do you use to make it?

Tip 4: Connect the Story to Why You’re Applying

Don’t forget that the purpose of your personal statement isn’t simply to tell the admissions committee who you are. That’s an important part of it, of course, but your ultimate goal is to convince them to choose you as a candidate.

That means it’s important to tie your personal story to your reasons for applying to this specific school or scholarship. Finish your essay with a strong thesis.

For example, if your story is about overcoming your fear of public speaking, you might connect that story to your ambition of becoming a politician. You can then tie that to your application by saying, “I want to apply to this school because of its fantastic politics program, which will give me a perfect opportunity to use my voice.”

Tip 5: Write in Your Own Voice

The personal statement isn’t supposed to be written in a formal tone. That’s why they’re called “personal” statements because you have to shape it to fit your own voice and style.

Don’t use complicated or overwrought language. You don’t need to fill your essay with semicolons and big words, unless that’s how you sound in real life.

One way to write in your own voice is by speaking your personal statement out loud. If it doesn’t feel natural, it may need changing. 

Tip 6: Edit, Edit, Edit!

It’s important to revise your personal statement multiple times in order to make sure it’s as close to perfect as possible.

A single typo won’t kill your application, but if your personal statement contains multiple spelling errors or egregious grammar mistakes, you won’t be putting your best foot forward.

ProWritingAid can help you make sure your personal statement is as clean as possible. In addition to catching your grammar errors, typos, and punctuation mistakes, it will also help you improve weaknesses in your writing, such as passive voice, unnecessary repetition, and more.

Let’s look at some of the best personal statements that have worked for successful candidates in the real world. 

Harvard Personal Statement Example

Love. For a word describing such a powerful emotion, it is always in the air. The word “love” has become so pervasive in everyday conversation that it hardly retains its roots in blazing passion and deep adoration. In fact, the word is thrown about so much that it becomes difficult to believe society isn’t just one huge, smitten party, with everyone holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.” In films, it’s the teenage boy’s grudging response to a doting mother. At school, it’s a habitual farewell between friends. But in my Chinese home, it’s never uttered. Watching my grandmother lie unconscious on the hospital bed, waiting for her body to shut down, was excruciatingly painful. Her final quavering breaths formed a discordant rhythm with the steady beep of hospital equipment and the unsympathetic tapping hands of the clock. That evening, I whispered—into unhearing ears—the first, and only, “I love you” I ever said to her, my rankling guilt haunting me relentlessly for weeks after her passing. My warm confession seemed anticlimactic, met with only the coldness of my surroundings—the blank room, impassive doctors, and empty silence. I struggled to understand why the “love” that so easily rolled off my tongue when bantering with friends dissipated from my vocabulary when I spoke to my family. Do Chinese people simply love less than Americans do?

This is an excerpt from a personal statement that got the applicant admitted to Harvard University. The applicant discusses her background as a Chinese-American by musing on the word “love” and what that means within her family.

The writer uses vulnerable details about her relationship with her grandmother to give the reader an understanding of where she comes from and how her family has shaped her.  

You can read the full personal statement on the Harvard Crimson website.

Tufts Personal Statement Example

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go,” and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon. Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration. Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear. I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

This is the beginning of a personal statement by Renner Kwittken, who was admitted into Tufts University as a pre-medical student.

Renner uses a humorous anecdote about being a pickle truck driver to describe his love for nanomedicine and how he got involved in his field. You can feel his passion for medicine throughout his personal statement.

You can find Renner’s full essay on the Tufts Admissions page.

Law School Personal Statement Essay Example

For most people, the slap on the face that turns their life around is figurative. Mine was literal. Actually, it was a punch delivered by a drill sergeant at Fort Dix, New Jersey, while I was in basic training. That day’s activity, just a few weeks into the program, included instruction in “low-crawling,” a sensible method of moving from one place to another on a battlefield. I felt rather clever for having discovered that, by looking right rather than down, I eliminated my helmet’s unfortunate tendency to dig into the ground and slow my progress. I could thus advance more easily, but I also exposed my unprotected face to hostile fire. Drill sergeants are typically very good at detecting this type of laziness, and mine was an excellent drill sergeant. So, after his repeated suggestions that I correct my performance went unheeded, he drove home his point with a fist to my face. We were both stunned. This was, after all, the New Army, and striking a trainee was a career-ending move for a drill sergeant, as we were both aware. I could have reported him; arguably, I should have. I didn’t. It didn’t seem right for this good sergeant, who had not slept for almost four days, to lose his career for losing his temper with my laziness. Choosing not to report him was the first decision I remember making that made me proud.

These are the first three paragraphs of an anonymous personal statement by a Wheaton College graduate, who used this personal statement to get into a top-25 law school.

This statement describes a time the applicant faced a challenging decision while in the army. He ended up making a decision he was proud of, and as a result, the personal statement gives us a sense of his character.

You can find the full essay on the Wheaton Academics website.

Here are some common questions about how to write a personal statement.

How Long Should a Personal Statement Be?

The length of your personal statement depends on the specific program you’re applying to. The application guidelines usually specify a maximum word count or an ideal word count.  

Most personal statements are between 500–800 words. That’s a good general range to aim for if you don’t have more specific guidelines.  

Should Personal Statements Be Different for Scholarships?

Many scholarship applications will ask for personal statements with similar prompts to those of college applications.

However, the purpose of a personal statement you’d write for a scholarship application is different from the purpose of one you’d write for a college application.

For a scholarship application, your goal is to showcase why you deserve the scholarship. To do that, you need to understand the mission of the organization offering that scholarship.

For example, some scholarships are meant to help first-generation college students get their degree, while others are meant to help women break into STEM.

Consider the following questions:

Why is this organization offering scholarships?

What would their ideal scholarship candidate look like?

How do your experiences and goals overlap with those of their ideal scholarship candidate?

You can use the same personal anecdotes you’d use for any other personal statement, but you’ll have a better chance of winning the scholarship if you tailor your essay to match their specific mission.

How to Start a Personal Statement

You should start your personal statement with a “hook” that pulls the reader in. The sooner you catch the reader’s attention, the more likely they’ll want to read the entire essay.

Here are some examples of hooks you can use:

A story (e.g. When the spotlight hit my face, I tried to remind myself to breathe. )

A setting description (e.g. My bedroom floor is covered with dirty laundry, candy wrappers, and crumpled sheet music. )

A funny anecdote (e.g. When I was a little kid, my friends nicknamed me Mowgli because of my haircut. )

A surprising fact (e.g. I've lived in 37 countries .)

There you have it—our complete guide to writing a personal statement that will make you stand out to the application committee.

Here’s a quick recap: 

A personal statement is a short essay that shows an application committee who you are

Start with a strong hook that pulls the reader in

Tell a story to engage the reader 

Write in your own voice, not in a formal tone

Good luck, and happy writing!

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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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

  • Ruth Gotian
  • Ushma S. Neill

what should be put in a personal statement

A few adjustments can get your application noticed.

Whether applying for a summer internship, a professional development opportunity, such as a Fulbright, an executive MBA program, or a senior leadership development course, a personal statement threads the ideas of your CV, and is longer and has a different tone and purpose than a traditional cover letter. A few adjustments to your personal statement can get your application noticed by the reviewer.

  • Make sure you’re writing what they want to hear. Most organizations that offer a fellowship or internship are using the experience as a pipeline: It’s smart to spend 10 weeks and $15,000 on someone before committing five years and $300,000. Rarely are the organizations being charitable or altruistic, so align your stated goals with theirs
  • Know when to bury the lead, and when to get to the point. It’s hard to paint a picture and explain your motivations in 200 words, but if you have two pages, give the reader a story arc or ease into your point by setting the scene.
  • Recognize that the reviewer will be reading your statement subjectively, meaning you’re being assessed on unknowable criteria. Most people on evaluation committees are reading for whether or not you’re interesting. Stated differently, do they want to go out to dinner with you to hear more? Write it so that the person reading it wants to hear more.
  • Address the elephant in the room (if there is one). Maybe your grades weren’t great in core courses, or perhaps you’ve never worked in the field you’re applying to. Make sure to address the deficiency rather than hoping the reader ignores it because they won’t. A few sentences suffice. Deficiencies do not need to be the cornerstone of the application.

At multiple points in your life, you will need to take action to transition from where you are to where you want to be. This process is layered and time-consuming, and getting yourself to stand out among the masses is an arduous but not impossible task. Having a polished resume that explains what you’ve done is the common first step. But, when an application asks for it, a personal statement can add color and depth to your list of accomplishments. It moves you from a one-dimensional indistinguishable candidate to someone with drive, interest, and nuance.

what should be put in a personal statement

  • Ruth Gotian is the chief learning officer and assistant professor of education in anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City and the author of  The Success Factor . She was named the world’s #1 emerging management thinker by Thinkers50. You can access her free list of conversation starters . RuthGotian
  • Ushma S. Neill is the Vice President, Scientific Education & Training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She runs several summer internships and is involved with the NYC Marshall Scholar Selection Committee. ushmaneill

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what should be put in a personal statement

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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what should be put in a personal statement

If you’re applying to graduate school, you’ll likely need to write a personal statement. But what exactly is a graduate school personal statement? And what should you write about to give yourself your best shot at admission?

In this guide, we teach you how to write a personal statement for grad school, step by step. But first, let’s go over how the personal statement differs from the statement of purpose as well as what schools look for in a great graduate school essay.

What Is a Graduate School Personal Statement?

A graduate school personal statement is an admission essay that typically focuses on your personal reasons for wanting to enter a grad program and particular field of study. Essentially, you must tell the story of who you are and how you developed your current research interests.

So is a personal statement for graduate school the same thing as a statement of purpose? Well, not always (though it can be). Here are the general distinctions between the two essay types:

  • Statement of purpose:  A formal essay that summarizes your academic and professional background, research interests, and career goals. In this essay, you’ll usually explain your reasons for applying to grad school and why you believe the program is a good fit for you (as well as why you’re a good fit for it!).
  • Personal statement: A less formal essay that focuses on your passion and motivation for wanting to enter your chosen field and program. This statement is typically more flexible than the statement of purpose, with a bigger emphasis on storytelling. Schools often encourage applicants to discuss (relevant) challenges in their lives and how they’ve overcome them.

Both the graduate school personal statement and statement of purpose are usually anywhere from one to three double-spaced pages long, depending on the program you’re applying to.

Below is a chart comparing the personal statement and statement of purpose:

Usually, the personal statement and statement of purpose are considered two different graduate school essay types.

But this isn’t always the case. While some schools consider the personal statement and statement of purpose two distinct essays, others use the names interchangeably.

For example, Michigan State University’s College of Engineering  considers them two distinct essays, while The Ohio State University uses “personal statement” to describe what is essentially a statement of purpose.

Many schools require just one essay  (and it’ll usually be the statement of purpose, as it’s the more academic one). But some, such as the University of Michigan , ask for both a personal statement and statement of purpose, while others, such as  Notre Dame’s Creative Writing MFA program , want an essay that combines the features of both!

Ultimately, the type of graduate school essay you  submit will depend entirely on where you’re applying.

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What Do Schools Look For in a Personal Statement?

Many grad schools require a personal statement in order to learn more about you, your interests, your struggles, and your motivations for wanting to enter a field of study. Through this essay, schools can get to know you on a deeper, more intimate level and learn about you in ways they can’t through transcripts and letters of recommendation alone.

But what specifically do universities look for in a great personal statement for graduate school? Here are some of the most important elements to include in your essay.

A Compelling Story

First off, your personal statement must tell a story. After all, this essay is basically your autobiography: it introduces who you are, your interests and motivations, and why you’ve decided to apply to grad school.

Unlike the statement of purpose, the personal statement should focus mostly on your personal history, from your failures to your triumphs. All experiences should tie back to your field or research area, emphasizing what you’ve learned and what this means in terms of your potential as a grad student.

Since you’re talking about yourself, be conversational in your storytelling: use an authentic voice, open up about your experiences, and maybe even throw in a joke or two. Though you’re still writing an essay for school, it’s generally OK to be a little more informal here than you would in a statement of purpose.

That said, there are a couple of things you absolutely shouldn’t do in your personal statement.

  • Open your essay with a quotation. Professors have heard the quotation before and don’t need (or want) to hear it again. Plus, quotations often take up too much space in an already short essay!
  • Use clichés. Think of unique ways to tell your story and grab readers’ attention. Schools want to see you can be creative yet honest about yourself, so avoid clichés like the plague (see what I did there?).
  • Get too creative. Your goal is to look like a serious, committed applicant—not a wacky risk taker—so write clearly and avoid any unnecessary distractions such as images, colors, and unprofessional fonts.

Most importantly, remember that your graduate school personal statement should focus on your successes. Try to use strong, encouraging words and put positive twists on difficult experiences whenever possible. It’s OK to mention your setbacks, too—just as long as you’re discussing how you ultimately overcame (or plan to overcome) them.

Inspirations for Your Research Interests

Schools don’t only want to see clearly defined research interests but also  why you have these particular interests.   While the statement of purpose elaborates on your professional goals, the personal statement explains what personally motivated you to explore your interests.

For example, in my personal statement for a Japanese Studies MA program, I wrote about my hot-and-cold relationship with the Japanese language and how a literature class and a stint abroad ultimately inspired me to keep learning.

Don’t make the mistake of going way back to the beginning to start your essay. Many applicants open their statements with something along the lines of “I fell in love with psychology when I was ten years old” or “It all started when I was in high school.” But these broad statements lack the creativity and zest needed to secure an acceptance, so avoid them at all costs.

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Your Motivation for Applying to Grad School

Your statement of purpose should explain why grad school is a practical next step in your professional life—but your personal statement should focus on what personally motivates you to take this step.

Generally, schools want answers to the following questions:

  • Why is grad school an appropriate step for you now?
  • How will a graduate degree help you achieve your goals?
  • Why didn’t you apply to grad school earlier (if you took time off after undergrad)?
  • Were there any struggles or problems you faced that prevented you from applying to grad school before?

Be honest about why you’re applying, both to grad school and the program in particular. In my graduate school essay, I discussed how my passion for Japanese literature and desire to translate it inspired me to seek advanced language training at the graduate level.

Strong Writing Skills

A great personal statement shows that you can write cogently and coherently. After all, strong writing skills are imperative for success as a grad student!

So in addition to telling a good story, make sure you use correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Use paragraphs to break up your thoughts, too. Because the personal statement is slightly less formal than the statement of purpose, feel free to play around a little with paragraph form and length.

Also, remember that  good writing doesn’t necessarily equal big words.  You’re writing about yourself, so use words that come naturally to you. Don’t grab a thesaurus and start throwing in a bunch of high-level vocabulary wherever you can; this will make your essay sound less authentic, not to mention stiff.

On the other hand, don’t get too colloquial. You’ll lose respect if you start inserting conversational words such as “gonna” and “gotta.” Therefore, look for the middle ground and write from there.

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Explanations for Any Hiccups in Your Academic Career

Lastly, the personal statement  gives applicants a chance to explain any problems or changes in their academic histories, such as low grades or gaps in education.

Because transcripts and resumes are severely limited in what information they give, schools often use the personal statement to understand your reasons for abrupt changes in your resume and/or transcripts, and to see how you’ve overcome these barriers in your education (and life).

Essentially, a personal statement equalizes the playing field by giving you full rein to explain yourself and emphasize your success over any struggles you’ve had.

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How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School: 9-Step Guide

The personal statement is a fiercely important part of your grad school application. In this section, we teach you how to write a memorable personal statement for grad school so that you’ll have a better shot at getting accepted.

Step 1: Start Early

Personal statements (actually, grad school applications in general!) take a lot of work, so don’t put off writing your essay until the week before your deadline. Rather, try to start working on your essay at least two or three months before your application is due.

You might want to give yourself more time to write it if you’re currently in school or working a demanding job. Setting aside more time lets you work on your graduate school essay routinely without having to squeeze in too many hours each week.

If you only have a month or less until your application deadline, get started on your essay pronto! Though it’s possible to write a personal statement quickly, I recommend carving out more time so that you can put more thought and effort into what you write and how you present yourself. (Doing this also gives others more time to edit your essay for you! We’ll cover this more in later steps.)

Step 2: Read the Instructions

Perhaps the most important step is to read your program’s instructions for the personal statement. Not following these instructions could very well result in a rejection, so always read these first before you start writing! Most programs put their personal statement instructions on their application materials pages.

Your program should give you the following information:

  • What type of content your personal statement should include or generally focus on (you might even get an actual prompt to answer!)
  • How long your statement should be
  • What type of heading, if any, you must include on your statement
  • How to save and submit your statement (e.g., .docx, PDF, etc.)

For example, let’s say you’re applying to the History PhD program at UC Berkeley . In this case, your personal statement can’t exceed 1,000 words (three double-spaced pages). You must also answer this prompt :

Please describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please include information on how you have overcome barriers to access in higher education, evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education, evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality, or evidence of your leadership among such groups.

On the other hand, if you were to apply for an MS in Mining, Geological, and Geophysical Engineering at the University of Arizona , your personal statement would follow these parameters:

Your personal statement is an opportunity to sell yourself, in terms of your research interests, research experience and research goals. Unless you have extensive research experience, most personal statements should be about two single-spaced pages. Your writing should be clear, concise, grammatically correct and professional in tone. You may convey some personal experiences that have led to your current interests or that make you a particularly promising candidate.

Clearly, grad programs can approach personal statements quite differently. Some schools consider them the same as statements of purpose and want a formal focus on academic and research interests, while others want applicants to explain more informally the challenges they’ve overcome to get to this point.

Simply put,  follow your program’s directions exactly in order to give yourself your best shot at admission.  And if any part of the instructions is unclear, don’t hesitate to contact your program!

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Step 3: Figure Out Your Angle

Your “angle,” or focus, in your graduate school personal statement will depend on a few key factors:

  • What your grad program wants you to write about
  • Your field of study and research interests
  • How much experience you have in your field

As I mentioned in step 2, it’s extremely important to  read the personal statement instructions for your program. Many times these guidelines will tell you what to include in your essay, thereby clarifying what your overall angle needs to be.

Let’s look back at the example we used above for UC Berkeley’s doctoral program in history. If you were applying here and came from a low-income family, you could discuss how you’ve overcome these financial challenges in your life to get to where you are today.

No matter the prompt, you’ll need to discuss your research interests (to some degree) in your personal statement.  How much you talk about your interests, however, will depend on whether you have to submit a separate statement of purpose. If so, you can focus less on your research plans and more on your passions and motivations for applying.

On the other hand, if your personal statement is essentially a statement of purpose, dive deep into your research interests—that is,  be specific! For example, those applying to English lit programs should think about the works, eras, and writers they want to study, and why.

More broadly, though, try to answer the question of  what you hope to accomplish, either during or after the program. Is there any particular project you want to do? Skills you want to improve? Field you want to break into?

Finally, always choose a positive angle.  Use affirmative words and phrases to highlight both your successes and overall enthusiasm for the program.

Step 4: Ask Yourself, “Why This Program? Why This Field?”

Although the statement of purpose usually answers this question directly, you’ll likely need to address this in your personal statement as well—ideally, with a less academic and more conversational tone.

As you brainstorm, try to come up with answers to the following questions:

  • What goals or experiences led you to apply to this program?
  • How will this program help you grow on a personal level?
  • What made you interested in this field? Why do you want to study it more?
  • What are your research interests? How did you develop these interests?
  • Are there any particular professors you wish to work with?

Step 5: Make an Outline

Now that you’ve brainstormed some ideas, it’s time to start outlining your essay.

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How you choose to outline your statement is up to you. Some people like drawing bubble charts for organizing their thoughts, whereas others (like myself) prefer to write a list of rough ideas in the general order they want to present them.

Even if you’re not sure whether you want to include something, just add it to your outline anyway. You can always cut it out later as you draft and edit.

Step 6: Draft Your Essay

It’s now time to start writing! Once you’ve got your outline ready, work on expanding what you’ve written into full-fledged paragraphs.

In the beginning, it’s OK to write down anything you feel is relevant, but as you continue to draft, try to look for any extraneous information you can chop.

Remember, most personal statements will be short— usually one to two double-spaced pages—so you don’t want to risk exceeding your program’s word limit. Schools want to see that you can tell a story concisely yet effectively.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a way to open your statement, try skipping around as you draft. Go ahead and jump to a paragraph you have more ideas for—it’s perfectly OK! Just make sure you start to tie all of your ideas together the closer you get to finishing your draft.

On a related note, be careful not to copy any material from your statement of purpose (if you’re required to submit two separate essays). These statements may share a little overlap but should still focus on different aspects of your (academic) life, accomplishments, and goals.

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Step 7: Get Feedback

Once you finish drafting, give your essay to people you trust for feedback. This could be a parent, friend, sibling, or mentor (such as a former or current professor).

Ask your editors to give you  specific feedback  on what you can change, both stylistically and technically, to make it more impactful. Ideally, they’ll also note any unclear, awkward, or redundant ideas/phrases and will offer you helpful suggestions for improvement.

If you’ve written a separate statement of purpose, see whether your editors are willing to check that essay over as well so that you can ensure there isn’t too much overlap between the two.

Step 8: Revise & Edit Your Essay

Once you get feedback, revise and edit your personal statement using your editors’ comments as a guide.

For example, if your editors told you your essay lacked detail, look for places in your writing where you can be more specific and that are likely to have a strong impact on the admission committee.

As you revise, keep an eye out for any awkward sentences or extraneous information. Personal statements are usually pretty brief and you don’t want to accidentally exceed the word limit. So when in doubt, take it out!

Step 9: Proofread

The final step is to proofread your draft. Start by using your computer’s spell check function to quickly find any glaring typos and grammatical errors.

Then, proofread your essay one sentence at a time. Since it’s easy to miss errors in your own writing, I recommend editing your essay from back to front (i.e., from the last sentence to the first sentence). Doing this prevents you from glossing over words and lets you pinpoint punctuation, spelling, and grammatical errors more easily.

In addition, check that you have page numbers on each page (if required—though I suggest adding them regardless) and a proper heading (again, if required) that meets the requirements of your program.

Before you submit it, see if you can get someone else (preferably one or all of your editors from step 7) to look over your final draft as well.  If anyone spots a problem with your essay, go back to step 8. If you get all thumbs ups, read over your statement one last time and then turn it in without looking back! (Seriously, don’t read it again or you’re going to want to change something.)

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The Key to a Great Graduate School Personal Statement

The personal statement is an essential part of your grad school application. Like the statement of purpose, it highlights your research interests, experiences, and goals.

But more importantly, the personal statement showcases  your unbridled passion for your field, lets you reflect on challenges you’ve faced (and subsequently overcome), and answers the overarching question of why you want to attend grad school.

A great graduate school personal statement will normally include most or all of the following elements:

  • A compelling story
  • Inspirations for your research interests
  • Your motivation for applying to grad school
  • Strong writing skills
  • Explanations for any changes or problems in your academic career

Above, we walked you through how to write a personal statement for grad school. To recap, here are the nine steps to follow:

  • Start early—at least two or three months before your application is due
  • Read your program’s instructions for the personal statement
  • Figure out your angle by brainstorming ideas
  • Ask yourself, “Why this program/field?”
  • Make an outline using charts, a list, etc.
  • Draft your essay
  • Get specific feedback from multiple editors
  • Revise and edit your essay
  • Proofread (and get other people to proofread it, too!)

What’s Next?

Need to write a statement of purpose, too? Waste no time!  Our expert guide offers tons of tips to help you come up with a statement of purpose that’s certain to impress admission committees.

Do your schools require a CV or resume?  If you’re totally lost on where to begin, read our guides to learn how to put together a great CV or resume for grad school. And for extra help, check out our four original CV and resume templates !

What do you need to submit for your grad school application?  Get the scoop on what kinds of materials you’ll need to prepare when applying to grad school .

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what should be put in a personal statement

Author: Hannah Muniz

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel. View all posts by Hannah Muniz

what should be put in a personal statement

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What to include in a personal statement

Knowing what to include in your personal statement and what to avoid will improve your chances of having your university application accepted. these are our tips..

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What to include

What not to include, what to remember before you start.

One of the most important parts of your university application is your personal statement. Knowing what to include won’t only help your chances of earning a place on your ideal course but will help you stand out from other applicants.

Include the following when crafting your personal statement:

  • Why you want a place on the course
  • Your career aspirations and how your chosen subject fits into these (if you’re still unsure on your future career goals, give an idea of what you’d like to move into upon graduation)
  • Qualities and experience you’ll bring to your studies, supported with evidence of how you’ve demonstrated these qualities or gained such experience
  • Examples of any relevant work, volunteering or academic experience to support your claims. Identify what you took away from each experience and link it to why you’ve chosen to apply for the subject
  • Other examples of learning and growth to support your claims, including extracurricular activities and achievements. This shows unis that you’re willing to engage with other aspects of the university experience beyond your studies
  • Any sponsorships or placements you've acquired or have applied for, with an explanation of why they’ll help with your career aspirations
  • If your first language isn't English, describe any opportunities you've had to use English (such as attending an English-speaking school or working somewhere where the main language is English)
  • Details of your gap year, if you plan to take one, and how it contributes to your interest in your chosen subject
  • Positive language, especially when describing your experience, that shows why you want to study your chosen subject
  • Challenges you’ve faced during the covid pandemic, how you’ve positively handled these and what they have taught you
  • Words and sentences in active voice, such as ‘I intend to...’, ‘I strongly believe that...’ and ‘My future career aspirations include...’

Amanda, one of the senior Paramedic Science lecturers at the University of Brighton , shared with us what she expects students to include in their personal statement:

Consider the subjects you're studying and their relevance to the course you're applying for. Demonstrate research into any professional bodies associated within the field you're applying for (if relevant). Articulate your preparedness for undergraduate study or awareness of the differences between college and university, in terms of study and level of expectations. Explain what's been learned from your experiences and how this will help with your future career aspirations. Amanda Blaber, Senior Lecturer at the University of Brighton, Honorary Fellow of the College of Paramedics, and Senior Fellow Advance HE (Higher Education Academy)

You don’t need to include everything in your personal statement. You only have 4,000 characters and 47 lines to work with, so keep your writing clear and concise

Avoid including:

  • Plagiarised content, under any circumstances. All personal statements are scanned by detection software – if you’ve used someone else’s work, your offers can be withdrawn
  • Words that make you sound too clever or gimmicky – there’s no guarantee that admissions tutors will understand your humour
  • Waffle or padding – only include relevant information
  • Quotations or quirky language – unless it’s relevant and makes sense based on the qualities you’re describing
  • Any mention of specific universities or course names – you’ll be using the same personal statement for each course and university you apply to
  • A list of your qualifications – unis will already have this information, so there’s no need to use up space listing them again
  • Additional papers to UCAS – these can be sent directly to the universities you’re applying to, with your UCAS application number attached
  • Anything that might come across as immature or that you can’t sensibly talk about in an interview
  • Excuses as to why you haven’t been able to gain relevant experience
  • Tips for writing your personal statement               
  • How to make your personal statement stand out

The task of writing your personal statement may initially feel overwhelming. But by leaving yourself enough time and starting with a plan, you’ll eventually craft a personal statement to be proud of.

Do the following before you start:

  • Leave yourself plenty of time to plan and write your personal statement
  • Write your first draft somewhere other than on the application itself, such as on Word or Google Docs. You can then copy and paste your personal statement into UCAS Apply
  • Keep the language clear and concise throughout – you have a limit on character count
  • Remember that a first draft is a first draft. Your personal statement doesn’t need to be perfect right away. Re-read and edit your piece as much as you like before the deadline
  • Find 2–3 people willing to proofread your personal statement and give feedback. They might notice any mistakes you’ve missed
  • How to start a personal statement

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Personal Statement Writing

Personal Statement Format

Cathy A.

A Complete Guide to a Perfect Personal Statement Format

Published on: Mar 26, 2019

Last updated on: Nov 14, 2023

Personal Statement Format

People also read

How to Write a Personal Statement - Easy Tips & Examples

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Do you struggle with formatting your personal statement? Many students face challenges when it comes to formatting their personal statements.

It's common for students to feel unsure about how to structure their personal statements. Questions like, "How do I organize it? What tone should I use? Am I including the right information?" can be really stressful and confusing, adding more pressure to an already stressful application process.

But don't worry! This blog is here to help. We'll make it easy for you to understand personal statement formatting, so you can create a strong and impressive personal statement. 

So, let’s begin!

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What is a Correct Personal Statement Format?

Like other academic papers, personal statements should also be formatted and structured according to a standard set of guidelines. In this way, you can make sure all the information in your personal statement is in an organized manner.

Usually the guidelines for formatting are provided by institutions where you are applying. Different institutions can have varying requirements so it's important to be mindful of their requirements.

However, here are the basic guidelines that you can follow if you don’t know how to format a personal statement.

  • Word Limit: Aim for around 500 words, staying within 495-505 words.
  • Spacing: Use single-spacing within paragraphs and add an extra line of space between each paragraph.
  • Font Style: Opt for a universally accepted font style, such as Times New Roman.
  • Font Size: Maintain a 12-point font size throughout your personal statement.
  • Header: Include your name and the page number in the header of each page for easy organization.

A standard formatting convention should be used to make your personal statement readable. Keep in mind that review committees go through hundreds of personal statements so it is important to make sure your personal statement stands out. 

Here is a sample personal statement format template you can use to write a personal statement:

How to Format A Personal Statement

The requirements for writing a personal statement vary, but generally, a personal statement includes certain information in the following format.

Step 1 - Determining Word Limit and Line-Spacing

Knowing the word limit is crucial. Ensure your personal statement aligns with the specified range, that is typically around 500 words. 

Implement double-spacing within paragraphs, adding an extra line of space between each paragraph. This technique creates a visually clear and structured layout for easy reading.

Step 2 - Font Style and Size

Consistency in font style is important for readability. Choose a widely accepted and easily readable font like Times New Roman or Arial. 

Maintain a font size of 12 points throughout your personal statement. This standard size aids in presenting a professional appearance and facilitates smooth reading.

Step 3 - Header Inclusion for Organization

To keep your document organized, consider including the title and page number in the header of each page. 

This simple addition aids in document management and ensures easy navigation, particularly if your personal statement extends across multiple pages.

Step 4 - Structuring the Content

Your personal statement's structure plays a pivotal role in its impact. Here's a breakdown of how to organize your narrative effectively:

  • Opening Paragraph - Begin with an introduction that clearly states the purpose of your personal statement. Engage the reader with an attention-grabbing opening statement and specify the program or position you're applying for.
  • Body Paragraphs - Detail your academic background, relevant experiences, and accomplishments. Showcase your skills and attributes as a strong candidate, write about any extra activities you took part in high school. Explain why the program or position you're applying for interests you and how it aligns with your ambitions.
  • Transition to Goals - Smoothly transition from your experiences to your goals, setting the stage for discussing your academic and career aspirations. Express gratitude for considering your application and end with a memorable statement or closing remark.

Step 5 - Finalizing Your Personal Statement

Ensure your personal statement is signed off with your full name. If submitting a printed copy, include your signature for authenticity. Proofread your document for clarity, coherence, and accuracy before submission.

Remember, each organization may have its own set of rules, so always double-check and follow their specific guidelines for the final touches on your personal statement.

Personal Statement Format Examples

If you are looking for helpful personal statement format examples, you are at the right place. Going through examples is one of the best practices to get an idea of how to write a perfect personal statement.

That’s why we have provided you with some good personal statement format examples to help you know what specific details should be included. 

Personal Statement Format For Grad School

Personal Statement Format For University

Personal Statement Format Law School

Personal Statement Format For College

Personal Statement Format For Masters

Personal Statement Format For Job

Personal Statement Format For Scholarship

Check out more flawlessly formatted personal statement examples to learn more!

Facing formatting hurdles with your personal statement? Even after this guide, if you're still feeling adrift, our essay writing service is here for you.

Our dedicated team excels at crafting standout personal statements. Our professional essay writing team is skilled at delivering perfectly formatted personal statements. Our team has helped thousands of students like you by providing winning personal statements.

So , why risk it? Order now to buy personal statement !

Cathy A. (Literature, Marketing)

Cathy has been been working as an author on our platform for over five years now. She has a Masters degree in mass communication and is well-versed in the art of writing. Cathy is a professional who takes her work seriously and is widely appreciated by clients for her excellent writing skills.

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How to Write a Personal Statement for a Scholarship + Examples

What’s covered:, what is the purpose of the scholarship personal statement, what to include in your personal statement, personal statement example: breakdown + analysis, how to make sure your writing is effective.

Either before or after you’ve gotten into your dream school, you’ll have to figure out how to pay for it. For most students, this involves a combination of financial aid, parent contributions, self-contributions, student loans, and scholarships/grants. Because scholarships are money out of someone else’s pocket that you never have to pay back, they are a great place to start!

Scholarships come in two forms: merit-based and need-based. Need-based scholarships are also often called grants. These designations tell you whether an organization looks at your financial situation when deciding about your scholarship.

Additionally, different scholarships fall under different categories based on the mission of the organization or person providing the scholarship’s financing. These missions typically emphasize different things like academic achievement, specific career goals, community service, leadership, family background, skill in the arts, or having overcome hardship. As you select scholarships to apply for and complete your applications, you should keep these missions in mind.

No matter what type of scholarship you are applying for, you will be asked to provide the review committee with standard materials. This includes your transcript, GPA, and resume/extracurriculars, but also, importantly, your personal statement. A scholarship personal statement is a bit different from your normal college essay, so we’ve put together this guide and some examples to help you get started!

The purpose of your personal statement is to help a review committee learn more about your personality, values, goals, and what makes you special. Ultimately, like with your college essays, you are trying to humanize your profile beyond your transcript, GPA, and test scores.

College essays all have one goal in mind (which is why you can apply to multiple schools at once through applications like the Common App or Coalition App): convince admissions officers that you would be a valuable addition to the university environment. The goal of your scholarship personal statement is different and differs more from one scholarship to the next. Rather than convincing various review committees that you are a generally good candidate for extra funding for college, you need to convince each review committee that your values have historically aligned with their organization’s mission and will continue to align with their organization’s mission.

Common missions amongst those who give scholarships include:

  • Providing opportunities for students with career ambitions in a particular field
  • Helping students who have experienced unexpected hardship
  • Supporting students who show outstanding academic achievement
  • Funding the arts through investing in young artists with strong technical skill
  • Supporting the development of civic-minded community service leaders of the future
  • Providing opportunities for historically underrepresented ethnic communities 

If a specific mission like this is outlined on an organization’s website or in the promotional material for its scholarship, the purpose of your personal statement is to show how you exemplify that mission.

Some scholarships ask for your personal statement to be guided by a prompt, while others leave things open for interpretation. When you are provided a prompt, it is obvious what you must do: answer the prompt. When you are not provided a prompt, you want to write a personal statement that is essentially a small-scale autobiography where you position yourself as a good investment. In either case, you should identify a focus or theme for what you are trying to say about yourself so that your application does not get lost in the shuffle.

Prompts include questions like:

  • Why do you deserve this scholarship?
  • How have you shown your commitment to (leadership/community service/diversity) in your community?
  • When did you overcome adversity?
  • Why is attending college important to you?

If you are provided a prompt, develop a theme for your response that showcases both your values and your achievements. This will help your essay feel focused and will subsequently help the review committee to remember which candidate you were as they deliberate.

Themes include things like:

  • I deserve this community service scholarship because my compassion for intergenerational trauma has inspired me to volunteer with a local after-school program. I didn’t just sympathize. I did something about my sympathy because that’s the type of person I am. Within the program, I have identified avenues for improvement and worked alongside full-time staff to develop new strategies for increasing attendance.
  • I overcame adversity when my mother had to have a major surgery two months after giving birth to my younger brother. I was just a kid but was thrown into a situation where I had to raise another kid. It was hard, but I’m the kind of person who tries to grow from hard times and, through my experience taking care of a baby, I learned the importance of listening to body language and nonverbal cues to understand the needs of others (baby and nonbaby, alike).

Without a prompt, clarity can be harder to achieve. That said, it is of the utmost importance that you find a focus. First, think about both your goals and your values.

Types of goals include:

  • Career goals
  • Goals for personal growth
  • The type of friend you want to be
  • The change you want to make in the world

Values could include:

  • Authenticity
  • And many more!

After you write out your goals/values, write out your achievements to see what goals/values you have “proof” of your commitment to. Your essay will ultimately be an exploration of your goal/value, what you have done about your goal/value in the past, and what you aspire to in the future.

You might be tempted to reflect on areas for improvement, but scholarships care about you living out your values. It is not enough to aspire to be exemplary in leadership, community service, or your academic field. For scholarships, you have to already be exemplary.

Finally, keep in mind that the review committee likely already has a copy of your extracurricular activities and involvement. Pick one or two accomplishments, then strive for depth, not breadth as you explore them.

My interest in the field of neuroscience began at a young age.  When I was twelve years old, my sister developed a condition called Pseudotumor Cerebri following multiple concussions during a basketball game.  It took the doctors over six months to make a proper diagnosis, followed by three years of treatment before she recovered.  During this time, my love for neuroscience was sparked as I began to research her condition and, then, other neurocognitive conditions.  Later, my love of neuroscience was amplified when my mother began to suffer from brain-related health issues.  My mother had been a practicing attorney in Dallas for over twenty years.  She was a determined litigator who relentlessly tried difficult cases that changed people’s lives.  Now, she suffers from a cognitive impairment and is no longer able to practice law.  Oftentimes, she has headaches, she gets “cloudy,” her executive functioning slows down, she feels overwhelmed, and she forgets things.  My mother has gone from being the strong, confident, emotional and financial caretaker of our family to needing significant help on a daily basis. Once again, with this illness came a lot of research on my part — research that encouraged me to pursue my dreams of exploring neuroscience.

Due to my experiences with my mother and sister when I was in middle school, I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the field of neuroscience.  I also knew that, to obtain this goal, I needed to maintain superior grades in school while also pursuing opportunities outside of school to further my education.  In school, I was able to maintain superior grades to the point where I am currently valedictorian in a class of 567 students.  In addition, in school, I challenged myself by taking 16 Advanced Placement classes and 19 Honors classes.  Two of the most beneficial classes were AP Capstone Seminar and AP Capstone Research.  AP Capstone Seminar and AP Capstone Research are research-oriented classes where students are given the opportunity to pursue whatever track their research takes them down.  As a junior in AP Capstone Seminar, I researched the effects of harmful pesticide use on the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children.  This year, as a senior in AP Capstone Research, I am learning about the effects of medical marijuana on the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).  

Outside of school, I furthered my education through taking advantage of the Duke TiP summer program. Duke TiP is a summer program run by Duke University where students who score extremely well on the SAT as middle schoolers are able to take college classes at different universities throughout the summers of their middle school and high school years.  I took advantage of this opportunity twice.  First, I went to Trinity University in San Antonio to expand my horizons and learn more about debate.  However, once I was done exploring, I decided I wanted to go into neuroscience.  This led me to take an Abnormal Psychology class at Duke University’s West Campus.  This class opened my eyes to the interaction between neuroscience and mental health, mental illness, and personality.  Years later, I am currently continuing my education outside of school as an intern at the University of Texas Dallas Center for Brain Health.  Through this internship, I have been able to see different aspects of neuroscience including brain pattern testing, virtual reality therapy, and longitudinal research studies.  With this background, I have positioned myself to be accepted by top neuroscience programs throughout the nation.  So far, I have been accepted to the neuroscience department of University of Southern California, the University of Virginia, the University of Texas, and Southern Methodist University, as well as the chemistry department at University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.  

It is with this passion for neuroscience driven by my family and passion for education driven by internal motivation that I will set out to conquer my career objectives.  My educational aspirations consist of acquiring a bachelor’s degree in a biological or health science that would assist me in pursuing a medical career as a neuroscience researcher.  I decided to attain a career as a researcher since my passion has always been assisting others and trying to improve their quality of life.  After obtaining my Masters and my PhD, I plan to become a professor at a prestigious university and continue performing lab research on cognitive disorders.  I am particularly interested in disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  In the lab, I hope to find different therapies and medications to help treat the 3.5 million people around the world suffering from ASD.  Furthermore, I want to contribute back to underserved populations that struggle because they do not have as much access to medical assistance as other privileged groups.  As such, I hope to do a part of my research in less developed or developing Spanish-speaking countries. This will also allow me to pursue my love of Spanish while pursuing my love of neuroscience.  I think that following such a career path will provide me the opportunity to learn about the medical needs of the autistic community and improve their quality of health.  Furthermore, I hope to train a new generation of students to strive to research and make comparable discoveries.  Whether it be through virtual reality labs or new drug discoveries, I believe that research leads to innovation which leads to a brighter future. 

This student does a great job of making themself appear competent and dedicated to the field of neuroscience. This is primarily because they provided tangible evidence of how they have pursued their dedication in the past—through their AP Capstone courses, their Abnormal Psychology class at Duke TiP, and their internship at UTD. There is no doubt in the mind of a reader that this student is high-achieving. 

This student also engages successfully with a past-future trajectory, where they end with a vision of how they will continue to use neuroscience in the future. This helps the review committee see what they are investing in and the ways that their money will go to good use.

This student has two major areas for improvement. As we have said, the purpose of a personal statement is for a student to humanize themself to a review committee. This student struggles to depict themself separately from their academic achievements. A solution to this would be for the student to establish a theme towards the beginning of their essay that relates to both their values as a human and their achievements.

At the beginning of the essay, the student explores how their interest in neuroscience began. They explain their interest through the following sentences: “During this time, my love for neuroscience was sparked as I began to research her condition and, then, other neurocognitive conditions” and “Once again, with this illness came a lot of research on my part — research that encouraged me to pursue my dreams of exploring neuroscience.” The student made the great decision to tell the backstory of their interest, but they described their research in very mundane and redundant terms. Instead, they could have focused on their value of intellectual curiosity as a magnetic force that encouraged them to research their mother and sister’s ailments. Curiosity, then, could serve as a value-related thematic throughline to taking AP Capstone classes, taking college courses during the summer that weren’t required, and interning before even graduating high school.

A second area for improvement would be avoiding statistics. As the student identifies their valedictorian status and the number of AP classes they have taken, they might turn away certain personalities on a review committee by appearing braggy. Even further, these statistics are a waste of space. The review committee already has access to this information. These words distract from the major theme of the essay and would have been better used to humanize the student.

Throughout my academic career, I have been an avid scholar, constantly pushing myself towards ambitious goals. I held and continue to hold myself to a high standard, enrolling myself in rigorous curriculum, including Honors and Advanced Placement courses to stretch my mental potential. During my junior year of high school, I took four AP tests, two on the same day, and earned the AP Scholar with Honor Award. Additionally, I received the Letter of Commendation for the PSAT/NMSQT, and qualified for Rotary Top 100 Students both my freshman and senior year, a sign of my commitment to my studies. However, school has not been all about having the best GPA for me; beyond the numbers, I have a deep drive to learn which motivates me to do well academically. I truly enjoy learning new things, whether it be a new essay style or a math theorem. I always give each class my best effort and try my hardest on every assignment. My teachers have noticed this as well, and I have received school Lancer Awards and Student of the Month recognitions as a result. It is a major goal of mine to continue to aspire towards a high level of achievement regarding future educational and occupational endeavors; I plan on continuing this level of dedication throughout my educational career and implementing the skills I have learned and will learn into my college experience and beyond.

This fall, I will begin attending the University of California Los Angeles as an English major. I chose this major because I am fascinated by written language, especially its ability to convey powerful messages and emotions. I also enjoy delving into the works of other authors to analyze specific components of their writing to discover the meaning behind their words. In particular, I cannot wait to begin in-depth literary criticism and learn new stylistic techniques to add more depth to my writing. Furthermore, I recently went to UCLA’s Bruin Day, an event for incoming freshmen, where I was exposed to many different extracurriculars, some of which really piqued my interest. I plan on joining the Writing Success Program, where I can help students receive free writing help, and Mock Trial, where I can debate issues with peers in front of a real judge. The latter, combined with a strong writing background from my undergraduate English studies will be extremely beneficial because I plan to apply to law school after my undergraduate degree. As of now, my career goal is to become a civil rights lawyer, to stand up for those who are discriminated against and protect minority groups to proliferate equality.

As a lawyer, I wish to utilize legislation to ameliorate the plight of the millions of Americans who feel prejudice and help them receive equity in the workplace, society, and so on. Though this seems a daunting task, I feel that my work ethic and past experience will give me the jumpstart I need to establish myself as a successful lawyer and give a voice to those who are often unheard in today’s legal system. I have been a Girl Scout for over a decade and continually participate in community service for the homeless, elderly, veterans, and more. My most recent project was the Gold Award, which I conducted in the Fullerton School District. I facilitated over ten workshops where junior high students taught elementary pupils STEM principles such as density and aerodynamics via creative activities like building aluminum boats and paper airplanes. I also work at Kumon, a tutoring center, where I teach students to advance their academic success. I love my job, and helping students from local schools reach their potential fills me with much pride.

Both being a Girl Scout and working at Kumon have inspired me to help those in need, contributing significantly to my desire to become a lawyer and aid others. My extracurriculars have allowed me to gain a new perspective on both learning and teaching, and have solidified my will to help the less fortunate. In college, I hope to continue to gain knowledge and further develop my leadership skills, amassing qualities that will help me assist others. I plan to join multiple community service clubs, such as UCLA’s local outreach programs that directly aid residents of Los Angeles. I want to help my fellow pupils as well, and plan on volunteering at peer tutoring and peer editing programs on campus. After college, during my career, I want to use legal tactics to assist the underdog and take a chance on those who are often overlooked for opportunities. I wish to represent those that are scared to seek out help or cannot afford it. Rather than battling conflict with additional conflict, I want to implement peaceful but strong, efficient tactics that will help make my state, country, and eventually the world more welcoming to people of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. These goals are close to my heart and therefore I will be as diligent as I am passionate about them. My perseverance and love for learning and community service drive my ambition in both education and life as a whole, and the drive to make the world a better place is one that I will carry with me for my entire life.

This student emphasizes two values in this essay: hard work and community service. These are values that go together nicely, and definitely make sense with this student’s end goal of becoming a civil rights lawyer! That said, some changes could be made to the way the student presents their values that would make their personal statement more convincing and engaging.

Structurally, instead of using a past-future trajectory, this student starts by explaining their academic achievements, then explains their career goals, then explains their history of community service, then explains their future desires for community service. This structure loses the reader. Instead, the student should have started with either the past or the future. 

This could look like 1) identifying their career goals, 2) explaining that hard work and a commitment to community service are necessary to get there, and 3) explaining that they aren’t worried because of their past commitment to hard work and community service. Or it could look like 1) providing examples of their hard work and community service in the past, then 2) explaining how those values will help them achieve their career goals.

Additionally, like with our other example, this student shows a heavy investment in statistics and spouting off accomplishments. This can be unappealing. Unfortunately, even when the student recognizes that they are doing this, writing “beyond the numbers, I have a deep drive to learn which motivates me to do well academically. I truly enjoy learning new things, whether it be a new essay style or a math theorem,” they continue on to cite their achievements, writing “My teachers have noticed this as well, and I have received school Lancer Awards and Student of the Month recognitions as a result.” They say they are going beyond the numbers, but they don’t go beyond the awards. They don’t look inward. One way to fix this would be to make community service the theme around which the essay operates, supplementing with statistics in ways that advance the image of the student as dedicated to community service.

Finally, this student would be more successful if they varied their sentence structure. While a small-scale autobiography can be good, if organized, every sentence should not begin with ‘I.’ The essay still needs to be engaging or the review committee might stop reading.

Feedback is ultimately any writer’s best source of improvement! To get your personal statement edited for free, use our Peer Review Essay Tool . With this tool, other students can tell you if your scholarship essay is effective and help you improve your essay so that you can have the best chances of gaining those extra funds!

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ITR: What is Annual Information Statement? Where to access for making corrections

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The Annual Information Statement—introduced in November 2021— gives taxpayers a single comprehensive statement on all their financial transactions done in a financial year

The tax department urged taxpayers to access their Annual Information Statement (AIS) through the e-filing portal of the department’s website and review the AIS

The Income Tax Department Monday said it is in the process of issuing notice to taxpayers about ‘mismatch’ between the information filed in the Income Tax Return (ITR) vis-a-vis information of specified financial transactions, as available with the department, for the assessment year 2021-22 (FY 2020-21).

The tax department urged taxpayers to access their Annual Information Statement (AIS) through the e-filing portal of the department’s website and review the AIS. If any discrepancies, mismatches or missing information is flagged, update the ITRs (ITR-U). So, what is this Annual Information Statement? How can it be accessed and how to correct the errors in AIS?

What is an Annual Information Statement?

The Annual Information Statement —introduced in November 2021— gives taxpayers a single comprehensive statement on all their financial transactions done in a financial year. The statement is available in the income tax portal and includes financial transactions reported by banks, RTOs, stock exchanges, etc, with the Income Tax Department.

Annual Information Statement is divided into two parts: Part A (General Information of the taxpayer) and Part B (TDS/TCS Information)

Part A: This part of AIS contains the taxpayer’s general information, including his name, PAN, masked Aadhaar number, date of birth, mobile number, e-mail ID, address, etc. 

Part B : This part of AIS contains the taxpayer’s financial transaction information, including tax deducted at source (TDS), tax collected at source (TCS), specified financial transactions (SFTs), payment of taxes, demand and refund, gains from other sources like lottery, crossword puzzle or horse race etc, receipt of accumulated balance from provident fund (PF), interest from bonds, government securities, offshore fund, shares of Indian companies, insurance commission etc.

The key objective of an Annual Information Statement is to enable the seamless filing of income tax returns (ITR) for taxpayers, promote voluntary compliance and, most importantly, deter non-compliance.

How to access the Annual Information Statement?

To access the Annual Information Statement, the taxpayers should log in to the I-T e-filing website www.incometax.gov.in and follow the following steps: 

  • Login to URL https://www.incometax.gov.in/
  • Select the Annual Information Statement (AIS) under the ‘Services Tab’ on the dashboard
  • Click on the ‘Proceed’ button, which will redirect you to the AIS portal
  • Click on the AIS tab to view the Annual Information Statement
  • After login, click the ‘e-File’ menu
  • Click on Income Tax Return, then go to view AIS
  • Open the AIS tab to view the Annual Information Statement

How to correct errors in the Annual Information Statement

Taxpayers who feel that the information reflected in AIS for the given assessment year is not inaccurate can submit a corrected response. The statement can be evaluated for all entries, including personal information and financial transactions.

Steps to correct the error in the Annual Information Statement:  

  • Login to the new Income tax e-filing portal incometax.gov.in
  • Select ‘Annual Information Statement (AIS)’ under the ‘Services tab’
  • A new window will pop up, giving two options: Taxpayer Information Summary (TIS) and Annual Information Statement (AIS)
  • Click on the AIS
  • A new window will pop up, and you will see Part A and Part B of the AIS 
  • Now, select the information which is not correct
  • Select ‘Optional’ to submit your feedback
  • There will be seven options available to you. Select the option applicable from the drop-down menu
  • Now, click on Submit

As soon as taxpayers submit feedback, the status is updated in real time.

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What to know about HSA tax prep

what should be put in a personal statement

Key takeaways

  • HSAs offer a number of benefits for savers focused on planning for future health care costs and reducing tax liability.
  • If you contribute to an HSA, or take a distribution, you need to complete and file IRS Form 8889 with your tax return.
  • You have until April 15, 2024, to make contributions to your HSA for 2023, up to the applicable annual limit.

As HSA-eligible health plans become more popular, there are a few important things taxpayers need to know about filing taxes with a health savings account.

What is an HSA again?

A health savings account is like an emergency fund specifically for qualified medical expenses—and it's full of tax advantages. You may be able to contribute to an HSA if you're enrolled in a high-deductible health plan through your employer or purchase an HSA-eligible plan through the health insurance marketplace.

If you contribute to or make withdrawals from your HSA in a tax year, you'll need to be on the lookout for 2 separate HSA tax forms.

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What to know about Form 8889

In order to enjoy the full tax benefits of an HSA and stay compliant with IRS rules, you need to complete and file Form 8889 each year you contribute to or distribute money from your HSA.

This form allows you to claim a tax deduction for any HSA contributions you made outside of payroll deductions and ensures money withdrawn from your account was spent on qualified health care expenses. It's important to read the instructions on this form carefully, since the IRS uses terminology that's easy to confuse if you're in a hurry.

How to fill out Form 8889

Crucially, on line 2, the IRS asks you to report contributions you made for 2023, or contributions made on your behalf, but that doesn't include any money you contributed through payroll deductions. Instead, it's asking how much you contributed outside of payroll deductions. This will be used to figure any additional tax deduction you may be eligible for, since these contributions were not made on a pre-tax basis, and ensure you didn't exceed your annual contribution limit.

Reminder: The HSA contribution limits for 2023 are $3,850 for self-only coverage and $7,750 for family coverage. Those who are 55 and older and not enrolled in Medicare can contribute an additional $1,000 as a catch-up contribution. If you're married and your spouse is also eligible for and wants to make a catch-up contribution, it must be done in a separate HSA. If your contributions exceed annual limits, they must be removed from the account before the tax deadline (April 15, 2024) or you could incur a 6% penalty on the excess contribution.

Line 9 on Form 8889 is where you report contributions to an HSA that were made through payroll deductions. But that's not all—you should also include contributions from your employer, if any, here. Don't be intimidated by line 9 asking only for "employer contributions." technically, all HSA contributions made through payroll deductions are considered "employer contributions." You can find this total on your W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, in box 12 with the code W.

The second section on Form 8889—HSA Distributions—is where you report the total amount of money taken out of your HSA in 2023 and how much of it was spent on qualified medical expenses . If you have family coverage, this includes distributions that were used for you, your spouse, and your dependents. You can find this total on Form 1099-SA , which HSA administrators are required to send out by late January. If you didn't receive yours, contact your HSA administrator or your employer's HR department.

What to know about Form 5498-A

Since contributions for 2023 can be made to HSAs up until the federal tax deadline, HSA administrators aren't required to send out Form 5498-SA , which is an informational document showing your total contribution amount, until May. If you have an online account, however, you should be able to log in to see your total contributions for the year. If you do receive Form 5498-SA, you're not required to file it with your taxes.

The final section on Form 8889 is where you report any qualified funding distributions—aka rollovers—that you made from a traditional or Roth IRA to an HSA and calculate additional taxes that may be owed for things like overfunding your account. (Note that these can only be done once in a lifetime.)

Finally, attach your completed Form 8889 to your federal tax return. You don't need to send in receipts to prove your HSA funds were spent on qualified medical expenses, but you should keep them for your records for at least 3 years in case you are audited.

4 HSA tax benefits you don't want to miss

It's hard to overstate the power of a health savings account. Here are 4 major tax benefits that make HSAs one of the best tools for making a plan for future and current qualified medical costs.

1. You can save more thanks to a triple-tax advantage.

Contributing to an HSA helps you save more over time with a triple-tax advantage: tax-advantaged contributions, tax-deferred earnings (if invested), and tax-free withdrawals for qualified health care expenses. 1 Many people contribute to HSAs through payroll deductions, which means the money is set aside before it's subject to income taxes.

If you enroll in an HSA-eligible health plan through the health insurance marketplace, rather than through an employer, you may not be able to make the same type of pre-tax contributions as you would through an employer-sponsored HSA. However, you will still be able to claim a tax deduction at the end of the tax year for money you added to your HSA up to the annual limit.

Once your account is funded, you may be able to invest a portion of it, or even all of it, for potential growth. Investment options and minimums vary by HSA administrator, but many offer stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, and more.

Unlike a taxable brokerage account, any gains from investments you sell will not be subject to federal taxes. Instead, the money will be deposited into your HSA tax-free and available to spend on qualified medical expenses. Note that if you're over 65 , you can spend your HSA dollars on nonqualified expenses, but you'll face ordinary income tax on the distribution, like a traditional IRA. If you're under 65 , HSA dollars spent on non-qualified expenses would incur a 20% penalty.

Read Viewpoints on Fidelity.com: 3 ways to use your health savings account

2. Your employer may contribute too.

Nearly 3 in 4 employers with an HSA program make contributions to individual employees' HSAs. 2 Much like a 401(k)-matching program, the money is yours to invest or spend on qualified medical expenses. You won't get a tax deduction for your employer's contributions, the amount your employer contributes will reduce what you can contribute for the year, and employer contributions are excluded from your gross income, but it's hard to argue with free money. There's no vesting period, the money your employer contributes to your HSA is yours from day one. And if you leave your employer, the account goes with you.

3. HSA funds never expire.

Unspent HSA funds have the potential to grow year after year, with no expiration date. If your HSA earns savings interest or a portion of your balance is invested, that money can be reinvested, potentially compounding the growth of your account. Over 30 years of contributing and investing the 2023 HSA family maximum contribution , you could end up with over $650,000, assuming a 6% rate of return. 3 And after age 65, there's no longer a 20% penalty on distributions used for nonqualified expenses, so you can use your funds for everyday expenses if needed, just remember that those withdrawals will be taxed as ordinary income.

4. HSA funds are not subject to RMDs.

In some ways, the tax treatment of HSAs resembles that of other tax-deferred accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs. But HSAs have a distinct benefit for retirees: no required minimum distributions. Typically when you reach age 73, you are required to begin taking a minimum withdrawal from your tax-deferred accounts. Those distributions, known as RMDs, are included in your income and can lead to a hefty tax bill (though there are ways to reduce the tax burden). HSAs never require distributions, making them one of the most flexible accounts for retirement income planning.

An HSA can help you save for medical costs now and in the future

HSAs are a great tool for medical expense planning, now and in the future. The tax benefits, combined with investment opportunity and portability, make HSAs an increasingly popular option for individuals and families alike. Understanding the annual tax reporting requirements ensures you're getting the most from your HSA.

Consider a health savings account (HSA)

With an HSA, you can pay for qualified medical expenses in a tax-advantaged way.

More to explore

Contribute to your hsa https://digital.fidelity.com/ftgw/digital/transfer log in required, investment help for hsas, subscribe to fidelity viewpoints ®, looking for more ideas and insights, thanks for subscribing.

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Oh, hello again, thanks for subscribing to looking for more ideas and insights you might like these too:, looking for more ideas and insights you might like these too:, fidelity viewpoints ® timely news and insights from our pros on markets, investing, and personal finance. (debug tcm:2 ... decode crypto clarity on crypto every month. build your knowledge with education for all levels. fidelity smart money ℠ what the news means for your money, plus tips to help you spend, save, and invest. active investor our most advanced investment insights, strategies, and tools. insights from fidelity wealth management ℠ timely news, events, and wealth strategies from top fidelity thought leaders. women talk money real talk and helpful tips about money, investing, and careers. educational webinars and events free financial education from fidelity and other leading industry professionals. fidelity viewpoints ® timely news and insights from our pros on markets, investing, and personal finance. (debug tcm:2 ... decode crypto clarity on crypto every month. build your knowledge with education for all levels. fidelity smart money ℠ what the news means for your money, plus tips to help you spend, save, and invest. active investor our most advanced investment insights, strategies, and tools. insights from fidelity wealth management ℠ timely news, events, and wealth strategies from top fidelity thought leaders. women talk money real talk and helpful tips about money, investing, and careers. educational webinars and events free financial education from fidelity and other leading industry professionals. done add subscriptions no, thanks. finding stock and sector ideas investing for beginners managing taxes changing jobs investing for income preparing for retirement saving for retirement living in retirement managing health care cost 1. with respect to federal taxation only. contributions, investment earnings, and distributions may or may not be subject to state taxation. 2. "2023 hsa survey," psca.org; plan sponsor council of america; https://www.psca.org/research/hsa/2023report 3. this calculation assumes you begin your contributions at the age of 30 and annually contribute up to the 2023 hsa contribution limit for family coverage of $7,750 over the entire period. this example also assumes a 6% rate of return, the absence of withdrawals over this 30-year period, and annual hsa catch-up contributions of an additional $1,000 starting at the age of 55 until the end of the 30-year time horizon. fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. the information herein is general and educational in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. tax laws and regulations are complex and subject to change, which can materially impact investment results. fidelity cannot guarantee that the information herein is accurate, complete, or timely. fidelity makes no warranties with regard to such information or results obtained by its use, and disclaims any liability arising out of your use of, or any tax position taken in reliance on, such information. consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation. keep in mind that investing involves risk. the value of your investment will fluctuate over time, and you may gain or lose money. the information provided here is general in nature. it is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal or tax advice. because the administration of an hsa is a taxpayer responsibility, customers should be strongly encouraged to consult their tax advisor before opening an hsa. customers are also encouraged to review information available from the internal revenue service (irs) for taxpayers, which can be found on the irs web site at www.irs.gov. they can find irs publication 969, health savings accounts and other tax-favored health plans, and irs publication 502, medical and dental expenses (including the health coverage tax credit),online, or you can call the irs to request a copy of each at 800.829.3676. fidelity brokerage services llc, member nyse, sipc , 900 salem street, smithfield, ri 02917 1132244.1.0 mutual funds etfs fixed income bonds cds options active trader pro investor centers stocks online trading annuities life insurance & long term care small business retirement plans 529 plans iras retirement products retirement planning charitable giving fidsafe , (opens in a new window) finra's brokercheck , (opens in a new window) health savings account stay connected.

what should be put in a personal statement

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COMMENTS

  1. How To Write a Good Personal Statement (With Examples)

    Include information that describes more about you than the details in your transcript. 5. Identify your plans for the future. Part of your personal statement can include future goals and ambitions. Explain what can happen if you gain acceptance to the university of your choice or you receive the job you want.

  2. 16 Winning Personal Statement Examples (And Why They Work)

    Here are 16 personal statement examples—both school and career—to help you create your own: 1. Personal statement example for graduate school. A personal statement for graduate school differs greatly from one to further your professional career. It is usually an essay, rather than a brief paragraph. Here is an example of a personal ...

  3. The Personal Statement

    The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories: 1. The general, comprehensive personal statement: This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms. 2.

  4. How to Write a Personal Statement (Tips + Essay Examples)

    In a great personal statement, we should be able to get a sense of what fulfills, motivates, or excites the author. These can be things like humor, beauty, community, and autonomy, just to name a few. So when you read back through your essay, you should be able to detect at least 4-5 different values throughout.

  5. How to Write a Personal Statement (with Tips and Examples)

    Tip 4: Connect the Story to Why You're Applying. Don't forget that the purpose of your personal statement isn't simply to tell the admissions committee who you are. That's an important part of it, of course, but your ultimate goal is to convince them to choose you as a candidate.

  6. 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. ... You should demonstrate that you've put plenty of thought into your career plans and show why you're well-suited to this profession.

  7. How to Write a Strong Personal Statement

    Address the elephant in the room (if there is one). Maybe your grades weren't great in core courses, or perhaps you've never worked in the field you're applying to. Make sure to address the ...

  8. How to Write a Personal Statement

    Watch out for cliches like "making a difference," "broadening my horizons," or "the best thing that ever happened to me." 3. Stay focused. Try to avoid getting off-track or including tangents in your personal statement. Stay focused by writing a first draft and then re-reading what you've written.

  9. How to Write a Powerful Personal Statement

    There are no set rules for how to write a personal statement—a lot of your writing choices depend on the assignment and reader—but they typically fall between 400 and 1,000 words, rarely exceeding a single page. Personal statements can be either open or prompted. Open personal statements are when you, the writer, get to choose the main topic.

  10. How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School: Tips & Samples

    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.

  11. Resume Personal Statement: How to Write & 7+ Good Examples

    Committed to creating user-friendly software and passionate about continual learning and growth. 7. Restaurant server. In a customer-facing role, such as a server, your personal statement is a good place to let hiring managers know what kind of customer experience you'll provide.

  12. How to write an excellent personal statement in 10 steps

    In summary, here are the ten steps you should follow to create the perfect personal statement. 1. Start with a plan. List all the things you want to cover. 2. Focus on your experience and your interests, and explain why it's relevant to the course. 3. Blow your own trumpet; don't understate your achievements. 4.

  13. How to Write a Stand-Out Personal Statement for Grad School

    Above, we walked you through how to write a personal statement for grad school. To recap, here are the nine steps to follow: Start early—at least two or three months before your application is due. Read your program's instructions for the personal statement. Figure out your angle by brainstorming ideas.

  14. 9 winning personal statement examples for a job

    Here are some examples of personal and professional statements: 1. Personal statement for a postgraduate programme. Joan David Personal statement for master's programme in Public Policy and Administration London School of Policy 'I held my first textbook when I was a 23-year-old undergraduate.

  15. Personal statement dos and don'ts

    Don'ts. Don't be modest or shy. You want your passions to come across. Don't exaggerate - if you do, you may get caught out in an interview when asked to elaborate on an interesting achievement. Don't use quotes from someone else, or cliches. Don't leave it to the last minute - your statement will seem rushed and important ...

  16. How to write a personal statement

    Start with an opening sentence that hooks the reader. Put the most important information at the beginning of your personal statement (e.g. why you're applying for the role and what makes you suitable) Mention any skills and experience you have that are relevant to the job. Finish off with a summary of your professional goals.

  17. How To Write Your Undergraduate Personal Statement

    Just start by showing your enthusiasm for the subject, showcasing your knowledge and understanding, and sharing your ambitions of what you want to achieve. Avoid cliches! Remember, this opening part is simply about introducing yourself, so let the admissions tutor reading your personal statement get to know you. Keep it relevant and simple.

  18. What to include in a personal statement

    Include the following when crafting your personal statement: Why you want a place on the course. Your career aspirations and how your chosen subject fits into these (if you're still unsure on your future career goals, give an idea of what you'd like to move into upon graduation) Qualities and experience you'll bring to your studies ...

  19. What to include in a personal statement

    Kate McBurnie, First Year student in French, Italian and Theatre. "I think it's really important to not only include why you'd like to study the course you're applying for, but also the things that set you apart from other applicants, i.e., your hobbies, interests, skills, volunteering etc.".

  20. How To Write a Personal Statement on a CV (with Examples)

    How to create a CV personal statement The personal statement is the first section that recruiters will see on your CV. Therefore, it should be compelling, attention-grabbing and tailored to the particular position. Here are three steps to take to create a compelling and effective personal statement: 1. State who you are. Start with a statement ...

  21. Personal Statement Format

    Step 1 - Determining Word Limit and Line-Spacing. Knowing the word limit is crucial. Ensure your personal statement aligns with the specified range, that is typically around 500 words. Implement double-spacing within paragraphs, adding an extra line of space between each paragraph. This technique creates a visually clear and structured layout ...

  22. How to Write a Personal Statement for a Scholarship + Examples

    That said, it is of the utmost importance that you find a focus. First, think about both your goals and your values. Types of goals include: Career goals. Goals for personal growth. The type of friend you want to be. The change you want to make in the world. Values could include: Authenticity.

  23. ITR: What is Annual Information Statement? Where to access for ...

    How to access the Annual Information Statement? To access the Annual Information Statement, the taxpayers should log in to the I-T e-filing website www.incometax.gov.in and follow the following steps:

  24. HSA tax form and taxes explained

    What to know about Form 8889. In order to enjoy the full tax benefits of an HSA and stay compliant with IRS rules, you need to complete and file Form 8889 each year you contribute to or distribute money from your HSA.. This form allows you to claim a tax deduction for any HSA contributions you made outside of payroll deductions and ensures money withdrawn from your account was spent on ...

  25. How to start a personal statement: The attention grabber

    2. Write about why you want to study that course. Think about why you want to study the course and how you can demonstrate this in your written statement: 'Your interest in the course is the biggest thing. Start with a short sentence that captures the reason why you're interested in studying the area you're applying for and that ...