Personal Statement / Statement of Intent

The essay portion of a graduate school application usually requires a Personal Statement or a Statement of Intent.  Some graduate programs ask for a combination of the two.

A Personal Statement should tell the admission committee something about you as a person and why you have decided to pursue the particular advanced degree.  If you are unsure where to begin, brainstorm 8-10 reasons why you were inspired to pursue this degree.  Try to write a paragraph or two about each.  Which ones are you most passionate about?  Try expanding on those and see where your ideas take you.  Remember, a well-written statement takes time to craft.  Do not expect to sit down and turn one out in an evening.

A Statement of Intent should answer the questions:  Why this program at this particular school? What are your career plans once you obtain the degree?


  • Proofread carefully and make sure there are no mistakes.  Your statement will likely be read by faculty members in your program.  You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
  • Ask someone you know well to read it:  they will know what you have left out that you may want to include.
  • Ask someone who does not know you to read it:  they will tell you what impression they have of you, providing insight into how it will be received by the admission committee.
  • Ask a graduate school advisor from the Bates Center for Purposeful Work to read over your statement
  • Check out this link for more information on what should be included:

In a Ph.D. program, it is very important that you demonstrate why you are a good “fit” for the program or faculty’s area of concentration, scholarship or expertise.  It is not enough to have the necessary academic qualifications.  Is this institution/program going to meet your needs for academic instruction, research, and scholarship?  Do your research interests mesh well with theirs?  Remember, they are going to invest 5 or more years of close work with you and they will be looking for students whose interests align with theirs.