Understanding & Preparing Your Personal Statement

Overview 

There are two types of statements included in the Graduate School’s online application; the Academic Statement of Purpose and the Personal Statement.  The Academic Statement of Purpose is required of ALL applicants to the Graduate School.  The Personal Statement may be required or optional depending on the program you are applying to.  

Optional Vs. Required

Required

Graduate fields have the option of requiring a Personal Statement as part of the application package for their program.  If the graduate program you are applying to requires a Personal Statement, all applicants will submit the Personal Statement as part of their regular online Graduate School application package.  The Personal Statement will be used to evaluate the applicant for admission as well as our Fellowships in Support of Diversity (dependent on eligibility).  

Optional

If the program you are applying to does not require the Personal Statement, it is optional for domestic, research-degree applicants who wish to be considered for Fellowships in Support of Diversity.  The Personal Statement will be uploaded as part of the online Graduate School application as a supplemental application document.  The Personal Statement will not be used to evaluate applicants for admission, rather, once the applicant is deemed admissible, it will be used to evaluate the applicant for Fellowships in Support of Diversity nomination.  

What Should the Personal Statement Include?

Regardless of whether or not the personal statement is required or optional, your Personal Statement should provide the admissions committee with a sense of you as a whole person, and you should use it to describe how your personal background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Additionally, it should provide insight on your potential to contribute to a community of inclusion, belonging, and respect where scholars representing diverse backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn and innovate productively and positively together.

Your Personal Statement provides you with an opportunity to share experiences that provide insights on how your personal, academic, and/or professional experiences demonstrate your ability to be both persistent and resilient, especially when navigating challenging circumstances. It also gives you an opportunity to provide examples of how you engage with others and have facilitated and/or participated in productive collaborative endeavors. Additionally, it provides you with an opportunity to provide context around any perceived gaps or weaknesses in your academic record.

Content in the Personal Statement should complement rather than duplicate the content contained within the Academic Statement of Purpose, which should focus explicitly on your academic interests, previous research experience, and intended area of research during your graduate studies.