What is a Graduate School Personal Statement?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A graduate school personal statement is a greatly-dreaded section of most grad school applications. Writing an essay to people unknown to the student that reveals intimate details about the student's past, present, and future career dreams can be an agonizing process even for those who normally enjoy writing. Nevertheless, a graduate school personal statement can be a major factor in an application package, and may be vital in getting to the next step of an admissions process.

Most of the required information on an admissions application is dry, factual detail. Understandably, the admissions board wants to know more about the people applying to a program than their name, previous school, and grade point average. The graduate school personal statement is designed to put a personality to each application; in programs where entrance is highly competitive and everyone had a 4.0 grade point average, personality truly can be a deciding factor.

A basic graduate school personal statement is a 1-3 page essay about who the applicant is, why he or she wants to attend the school, and what, if any, plans the applicant has made for a future career. Some versions of the statement have specific questions that must be incorporated into the paper, such as how the applicant feels about the current state of the industry, or what experience does the applicant feel qualifies them for the program. It is important to check over a graduate school personal statement to make sure that all requested issues were addressed in full, and have been integrated gracefully into the paper.

Writing a graduate school personal statement can be done in many different ways. Those with a gift for writing may want to make it funny in an attempt to grab the attention of the admissions board. Others may have a personal story to share that has lead them to apply for the program. The most important thing to do when writing a graduate school personal statement is to be both honest and personal. The admissions board wants to find candidates that honestly want to attend the school and feel it would enhance their lives as well as their education.

In writing a personal statement, candidates may be surprised by the amount of personal analysis the work entails. It is important to understand the personal journey that has led to this quest for graduate school, and it may be critical to let the admissions committee know about the difficult, amusing, and emotional steps of that journey. Generally speaking, since most graduate school programs want candidates who are dedicated and interesting, a personal statement is the best opportunity a candidate may have to display both of those qualities.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a writer.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a writer.

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