How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School: Top 5 Tips

How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School
July 31, 2023 6 min read Liaison

Here are some important things to consider before writing your personal statement for a grad school application.

Key Takeaways

A grad school personal statement is an essay about you as an individual and your reasons for applying.

Some schools have very specific requirements for personal statements, while others have open-ended questions or no requirements.

Focus on relevant experiences and be creative and unique in order to stand out.

Point out specific reasons why you decided to apply to a particular school and program.

Proofread your essay for relevance, tone of voice, grammar, and typos.

A personal statement can help you differentiate yourself from applicants with similar scores and skills.

What is a Personal Statement for Grad School?

Not sure how to write a personal statement for grad school? This article provides tips for writing a personal statement that will make you stand out.

A personal statement is an essay about yourself, your reasons for applying to a specific program, your interest in the field, and your academic background.

Note that you’ll probably need to write more than one personal statement if you're applying to several programs because each statement should be tailored to the individual school and program.

How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School — Top 5 Tips

There isn't one way to write a personal statement. Below, you'll learn about common requirements, what you should write and how, and other tips to help you craft a strong personal statement.

1. Check the requirements set by the school you want to apply to

While the format of a personal statement for graduate school varies from institution to institution, some schools don't require a written personal statement. In some instances, you'll have to answer open-ended questions like, "Why do you think you're a good fit for the program?" After considering the requirements, you should decide what you'll cover in your statement.

2. Be creative

If you've chosen a grad school that doesn't have requirements for a personal statement but you would still like to submit one, you should choose a topic you know a lot about. When a lot of students have similar standardized test results and GPAs, strong writing skills can make a personal statement stand out. Writing a personal statement for grad school may take a while, so leave yourself enough time to write a perfect one. Try to be creative and unique.

3. Be relevant

If you're applying to a master's program, one of the best options is to write about your undergraduate studies experiences. You can mention things that have impacted you and made you fall in love with your chosen area of study. You can also write about your volunteering experiences, internships, reasons for your interest in the field, and accomplishments.

However, it's generally advisable to write about experiences relevant to your area of study rather than experiences unrelated to the field.

4. Be specific for consistency

No matter which grad school personal statement format a school requires, you'll have to specify the reasons why you are interested in the particular program and what makes you a great fit for it. To provide the best possible answer, research the program first so you can mention specific courses that interest you and the reasons why. Also, you should learn about the professors and mention those whose work you find interesting.

You should be as specific as possible in your personal statement essay.

5. Use an appropriate tone of voice

A personal statement is an essay about you as an individual. However, using the appropriate tone of voice is essential because it can demonstrate your professionalism, which is an important trait for a student.

writing a personal statement for grad school

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How to Start a Personal Statement for Graduate School

Getting started writing your grad school personal statement can be daunting. That's because your grad school personal statement can be a critical way to differentiate yourself as a candidate. It is also your opportunity to bring your grad school application to life. And because there is no one right way to write your personal statement, the question of how to start a personal statement is not always clear. Given the importance of the assignment, it can be helpful to approach the process in steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

You can ease into this all-important project while building your confidence about the writing process by identifying the raw content that will best serve your statement position. To do this, carefully review the prompt that the program has provided in its solicitation. Some prompts are very specific, and some are very broad. Be clear about exactly what is being asked for each personal statement you create.

Start by revisiting your knowledge of the target institution and program of choice. Make sure you understand the culture of both the school and program and how you will fit in and contribute. What is it about the school and program that excited you and set it apart? Take notes as you think about it.

Think, too, about the greatest talents you’ve exhibited over your lifetime. What are your innate gifts that have been present since you can remember, starting at a very young age? Make a list of them to remind yourself. How have you further developed these talents in terms of the choices you have made with your studies, extracurriculars, volunteerism, and the like? What are you most passionate about? When do you find yourself “in the zone” doing work that doesn’t even feel like work?

These personal attributes can become so second nature that you’ve may have forgotten about them. Now is the time to remind yourself and name them. These aptitudes which are uniquely yours provide the essence of who you are beyond grades and test scores—and give admissions staff an important window into you and your candidacy. 

Personal Statement Format

It’s smart to put some time into thinking about the format of your grad school personal statement, because the way you present your story also matters to reviewers.

In general, less is more when it comes to the visual aspect of your statement. Choose a common font that is easy to read and use 11- or 12-point type, so reviewers don’t have to strain to read it. Black for your text color is the clear winner because it is simple and provides high contrast that aids readability. Remember that reviewers’ eyes get tired.

As a general rule, you want your visual formatting choices to prioritize the content that you are providing in your personal statement—not to compete with it. You want to wow the admissions team with your story and your message. Make it easy for them to focus on that.

Some applications will require that you cut and paste your writing into their online form, so starting with commonly used text attributes will ensure that your work submission goes smoothly.

As for the length of your statement, look for guidance in the application. A common default word count is often approximately 650, but this is not universally the case. If the word count requirement is not published, it’s a good idea to reach out to admissions to clarify what they are seeking for statement length.

Most importantly, the development of your actual story deserves some serious thought. Create an outline and refine it before you begin to write. Try making several different versions of your outline that incorporate the same elements but present them in a different way if possible. Which option speaks to you the most, and is the most gripping? Focus on achieving a flow of ideas that integrates your various experiences and makes your most compelling presentation.

Can I Use ChatGPT for a Personal Statement for Grad School?

When crafting your personal statements for grad school, it’s important to understand whether you can and should utilize artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT to assist your efforts.

The advent of generative AI has brought has brought some new hot-button issues to the fore, so students need to make ethical choices about how they craft their work. Use of ChatGPT has caused considerable backlash in higher ed because of concerns about the origin

When it comes to the issue of writing your grad school personal statement, there are a number of reasons why using ChatGPT is not advised. The very nature of a personal statement requires that every successful applicant communicates from the heart about their life’s work and goals for the future. ChatGPT technology is simply not able to do that as authentically as you can.

In fact, using ChatGPT could be counterproductive to your cause should you attempt to use it for writing your personal statements. Essay readers are adept at knowing when a candidate has used ChatGPT to craft their personal statement. Some employ software to analyze the writing for potential AI use. And most reviewers have enough experience in this realm that they can identify ChatGPT-generated text versus text written by a human without relying on software analysis.

Anybody familiar with ChatGPT can quickly see that it is not able to provide the level of detail that is a hallmark of quality writing. It creates copy that speaks in generalities and is devoid of specifics and examples. When you think about the purpose of a personal statement, it quickly becomes clear that the quality of writing that ChatGPT provides would actually become a liability when used to create one’s application.

That said, it may be acceptable to use ChatGPT as an initial “sketch tool” when you are planning and outlining your personal statement. It may provide you with some talking points that you have not yet considered. Feel free to try it early on as you build a starting framework for your statement. Then put it aside and trust your own higher skills for telling the story of your journey. This writing approach will be far more rewarding, and with proper planning and execution, will provide a superior result that best highlights your strengths and skills.

Additional Tips for Crafting Your Best Grad School Personal Statements

After finishing your essay, it's best to wait a day or two before you submit it. That gives you an opportunity to read it again with fresh eyes and make necessary edits to grammar, punctuation, spelling, and any typos you might have overlooked.

After checking everything, you can give your personal statement to a friend or family member and listen to their opinions.

Write Away! Get Started on Your Personal Statement for Graduate School

Writing a compelling personal statement for school applications requires careful consideration and attention to detail. First, you need to check the requirements of the school you're applying to as some may have specific guidelines or word counts for the personal statement.

Be creative and choose a topic that showcases your knowledge and writing skills to stand out from other applicants. Focus on relevant experiences related to your chosen field of study, such as your undergraduate studies, volunteering experiences, internships, and interests in pursuing professional opportunities after earning a graduate degree.

Provide specific reasons for your interest in the program, mentioning particular courses, professors, or other aspects of the institution that appeal to you.

Double-check your essay for relevance, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Using a professional tone of voice is preferable, and you should avoid using famous quotes and cliches.

Consider seeking feedback from others to improve the statement further because a well-written personal statement can enhance your chances of getting accepted. It can help you stand out among students who may have similar scores and achievements as you.


A personal statement is an essay you may need to write when applying for graduate school. While many schools require it, some don't. Among schools that do require it as part of the application process, guidelines and instructions may vary.

Grad schools that require a personal statement in the application process often specify how long it should be. The word count is usually between 500 and 1000 words. If there are no requirements for the word count, you should write up to two pages. But always check if there are precise guidelines before you start writing.

Your first paragraph should start with something interesting to grab reviewers’ attention. After that, you need to concisely explain why you wish to pursue a certain degree and give a short overview of your educational background. Lastly, you should write about the career goals you plan to accomplish with a particular graduate degree.

In the last paragraph, summarize your main points in a simple and compelling way. Point out the reasons for applying and your interests in the particular field.

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