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 specific degree and the specific program. If you are unsure where to begin, brainstorm 8-10 reasons why you were inspired to pursue this degree and this program. 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 one day/night, especially right before the deadline.

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

Advice and guidance:

  • Proofread carefully and make sure there are no mistakes in spelling, grammar, or program details. Your statement will likely be read by faculty members in the program. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
  • Ask someone who knows you well to read it, such as a faculty advisor, mentor, or recommender. They will likely know what you have left out that you may want to include.
  • Ask someone who does not know you well to read it. They will be able to tell you what impression they have of you after reading it, thereby providing insight into how it will likely be received by the admission committee.
  • Ask an advisor from Purposeful Work to read it.

NOTE: For Ph.D. programs, it is particularly important that you demonstrate why you are a good “fit” for the program or faculty’s area of concentration, expertise, and scholarship. It is not enough to have strong grades. Is the school/program going to meet your needs for academic instruction, research, and scholarship? Do your research interests align with those of the school and its faculty? Since they are going to invest 5 or more years of close work with you, they will be looking for students whose interests align with theirs.