What Should I Write About in My Graduate Personal Statement?

By Peterson's Staff updated on Thursday, October 31, 2013
This is one of the most common questions the experts at EssayEdge hear from applicants and unfortunately, it’s one that nobody beside the applicant him or herself can answer. There is no silver bullet, no detailed content map that will ultimately guarantee success.

It is vitally important that you understand this. Regardless of what you may read elsewhere on the Internet or in personal-statement guidebooks, there are no “proven” stories that will somehow maximize your chances of admission to a graduate school. In fact, if you find and follow any guidance of this type, or worse, if you plagiarize, you will be hamstringing yourself and your attempts to create a good statement of purpose.

Even though there is no guaranteed content that will make your essay outstanding, though, there are some general rules that can help guide you through the selection process. Keep these in mind as you progress while writing. And if you want more specific advice, tailored to your particular essay, then check out EssayEdge today!

Be Personal in a Great Personal Statement!

First off, ensure that the content you decide to include in your statement of purpose is intimately connected to you. One of the most common ways in which graduate school applicants weaken their statements is by including vague generalizations or not clearly explaining how something connects to them. You’re applying to undertake study in a very specific field, but that doesn’t mean you should focus solely on that field; don’t forget that everyone else who’s applying to this particular program has a similar command of and passion for that field. You need to show how you are unique in your connection to your field.

Take the following statement for instance:

“I want to become a professor of English literature at the college level.”

Such a statement is general and clichéd; a huge proportion of grad school applicants have similar motivations, and you don’t set yourself apart from the crowd at all. Instead, you might try saying something like:

“My passion for the work of Shelly, Austen, and others motivates me to share that influential literature with a new generation of scholars.”

This statement actually speaks to specifics, differentiating you from all the other applicants. It conveys your own knowledge and expertise in the subject matter, and it communicates your passion in a far less bland fashion.

Secondly and on a related note, be honest. The admissions committee wants to get to know you better, and they’ll be reviewing your statement in concert with the rest of your application. As such, you should avoid the temptation to embellish your credentials or otherwise lie. You will almost certainly be caught, and today’s focus on academic and professional integrity means that your application will be dead in the water. Don’t embellish, don’t lie, and don’t plagiarize. It’s as simple as that.

Lastly, avoid repeating information. As I just noted, your statement will be reviewed as part of your overall application. If something is already covered well in some other part of your app, don’t waste time mentioning it in your statement of purpose. Similarly, don’t make your statement little more than your resume in essay form. You need to construct a unique narrative based on personal experiences that aren’t detailed in a resume. You still need to focus on accomplishments and plans, but you need to color those with more vivid, personal anecdotes.

EssayEdge is an expert resource for essay tips.  

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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