One of the most universal elements of graduate school applications is the personal statement, required by most reputable universities. It carries a lot of weight in the assessment of prospective students’ applications and is often the difference between a successful application and an unsuccessful one.

But there is no need to be intimidated by the process! While it takes a lot of thought and work, the task itself is not difficult. This article will break down the daunting task, serving as a comprehensive guide to this important part of your application process. It explains what a personal statement is, highlights what is expected to be in it, and offers tips to help you craft the perfect personal statement.

What is a Personal Statement?

Also called a Statement of Purpose (SOP), the personal statement is an essay that explores the applicants’ achievements and interests. It offers them the opportunity to showcase their personality, experiences, and aspirations. For graduate programs, applicants may be required to also explain their research interests. A strong Personal Statement is a cornerstone of successful college applications.

Typically ranging between 500 to 1000 words, the essay should be concise while packing a punch. A good statement will reflect the applicant’s journey, highlighting the challenges they have overcome, their motivations, and their career goals. It provides context to academic and extracurricular achievements, and prior work experience, if any. This gives the admissions committees a well-rounded view of the applicant.

This is the space to prove that your values and goals align well with the program, and you have the potential to contribute positively to the campus community. The essay should be clear and organized, with an engaging introduction, a compelling middle, and a solid conclusion that reinforces the main points. Stories and anecdotes can inject personality, making the statement relatable and memorable.

Because it is such an important document, aspiring students should invest time and effort into crafting a statement that truly represents them and their dreams.

Tips for Writing a Perfect Personal Statement

Tip 1. Familiarize Yourself with the Instructions

Before you start writing your personal statement, it is crucial to thoroughly understand and internalize the instructions provided by the university and the program you’re applying to. This involves carefully reading any guidelines, prompts, or specific requirements mentioned. Pay attention to word limits, formatting preferences, and any specific topics or themes they want you to address.

Tip 2. Don’t Leave it to the Last Minute!

Give yourself ample time to craft and refine a thoughtful statement. Beginning early allows you to brainstorm and write without feeling rushed. You will have the time to revise your draft and seek feedback if you want.

Tip 3. Begin with a Captivating Hook

The opening of your personal statement is your opportunity to immediately grab the reader’s attention and draw them into your narrative. To achieve this, craft a captivating hook that intrigues and engages the admissions committee from the very first sentence.

Consider starting with a thought-provoking question, a bold statement, a relevant quote, or a vivid anecdote. A good lead will ensure that you stand out amidst a sea of applications.

Tip 4. Show, Don’t Just Tell

One of the fundamental pieces of writing advice is to show, not tell. This applies to SOPs too. Use vivid examples and stories to illustrate your qualities, allowing the admissions committee to see your attributes in action. For instance, rather than stating that you have leadership skills, share a story that showcases a time when you took the lead in a challenging situation.

Tip 5. Focus on Unique Experiences

Make it a priority to highlight experiences and aspects of your life that set you apart from other applicants when crafting your personal statement. Admissions committees read numerous personal statements, so showcasing your uniqueness is essential to making a memorable impression.

Tip 6. Align with Program Goals

Tailoring your statement to align with the specific goals and values of the program you’re applying to can enhance your essay’s effectiveness. Research the program thoroughly and identify its mission, strengths, and unique attributes.

Connect your experiences and accomplishments to the program’s offerings. Discuss your own future goals and share how the program you’re applying to plays a pivotal role in helping you achieve these goals.

Tip 7. Be Authentic

Be yourself; don’t try to fabricate a persona. Admissions committees value honesty and a sincere representation of who you are. Avoid embellishing your achievements, using excessive jargon, or attempting to create a persona that doesn’t truly reflect you. Instead, share your real experiences, motivations, and aspirations. Admissions officers are adept at recognizing authenticity and are more likely to be impressed by a heartfelt and honest narrative.

Tip 8. Be Clear and Concise

When crafting your personal statement, strive for clarity and brevity. Admissions officers review a large volume of applications, and a concise statement is more likely to hold their attention. Focus on conveying your ideas succinctly, avoiding unnecessary repetition or overly elaborate language.

Tip 9. Use Active Voice

Opting for an active voice when writing your personal statement enhances its clarity and impact. Active voice emphasizes the subject’s action, creating a more direct and engaging narrative.

For example, instead of saying, “My undergraduate degree taught me…” try: “During my undergraduate degree, I learned…”

Tip 10. Review Word Choice and Essay Structure

Select words carefully; opt to choose those that convey your ideas simply and accurately. Avoid using overly complex vocabulary if it doesn’t enhance clarity. Replace vague terms with specific details that paint a clear picture.

You can also make your writing more compelling by checking its readability: Are your sentences varied in length and structure? Are your paragraphs balanced?

Once you’ve ensured the syntax is fine, turn your eye to the big picture. Ensure that your personal statement flows logically. Begin with a compelling introduction, followed by well-organized paragraphs that each address a specific theme or aspect. Transition smoothly between ideas to maintain coherence.

Tip 11. End with Impact

The conclusion of your personal statement is your final opportunity to make an impact. Summarize the main themes or qualities you’ve highlighted throughout your personal statement. You can consider ending with a thought-provoking statement, a call to action, or a reflection that leaves the reader with a sense of closure and insight into your journey.

By concluding your personal statement on a strong note, you create a memorable finish that lingers in the minds of the admissions officers, enhancing your overall application’s impact.

Tip 12. Edit and Proofread

Finally, remember your first draft is never the final draft! After drafting your personal statement, spend enough time to thoroughly edit and proofread. A pro tip to clean up your writing is to read it aloud to identify awkward phrasing or unclear sentences.

Review your personal statement for clarity, coherence, and consistency. Carefully comb through your personal statement to catch grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and punctuation errors. Don’t forget to pay attention to details like verb tense and subject-verb agreement.

You can also ask for feedback from people you trust: your teachers, mentors, parents, or peers. Fresh eyes can provide valuable insights and suggestions for improvement.

When writing your personal statement, aim to confidently express your unique voice, leaving a lasting impression on the admissions committee. Good luck!


We hope these tips for writing a perfect personal statement will help you to craft a compelling and winning personal statement. Make sure to also check out our Scholarships Page for different information on scholarships and universities across the globe!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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