Helpful tips and advice for drafting a compelling personal statement when applying for graduate admission
What does this statement need to accomplish?
The personal statement should give concrete evidence of your promise as a member of the academic community, giving the committee an image of you as a person.
This is also where you represent your potential to bring to your academic career a critical perspective rooted in a non-traditional educational background, or your understanding of the experiences of groups historically under-represented in higher education and your commitment to increase participation by a diverse population in higher education.
What kinds of content belongs here?
Anything that can give reviewers a sense of you as a person belongs here; you can repeat information about your experiences in your research statement, but any experiences that show your promise, initiative, and ability to persevere despite obstacles belongs here. This is also a good place to display your communication skills and discuss your ability to maximize effective collaboration with a diverse cross-section of the academic community. If you have faced any obstacles or barriers in your education, sharing those experiences serves both for the selection process, and for your nomination for fellowships. If one part of your academic record is not ideal, due to challenges you faced in that particular area, this is where you can explain that, and direct reviewers’ attention to the evidence of your promise for higher education.
The basic message: your academic achievement despite challenges
It is especially helpful for admissions committees considering nominating you for fellowships for diversity if you discuss any or all of the following:
- Demonstrated significant academic achievement by overcoming barriers such as economic, social, or educational disadvantage;
- Potential to contribute to higher education through understanding the barriers facing women, domestic minorities, students with disabilities, and other members of groups underrepresented in higher education careers, as evidenced by life experiences and educational background. For example,,
- attendance at a minority serving institution;
- ability to articulate the barriers facing women and minorities in science and engineering fields;
- participation in higher education pipeline programs such as, UC Leads, or McNair Scholars;
- Academic service advancing equitable access to higher education for women and racial minorities in fields where they are underrepresented;
- Leadership experience among students from groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education;
- Research interests focusing on underserved populations and understanding issues of racial or gender inequalities. For example,
- research that addresses issues such as race, gender, diversity, and inclusion;
- research that addresses health disparities, educational access and achievement, political engagement, economic justice, social mobility, civil and human rights, and other questions of interest to historically underrepresented groups;
- artistic expression and cultural production that reflects culturally diverse communities or voices not well represented in the arts and humanities.
by Michael Cheary
Not sure what to include in your personal statement?
Although a personal statement can have many uses (whether it’s for university or for your CV), its purpose is always based around selling yourself to the reader. Not only do you have to summarise your skills and experience, you also have to make sure it’s relevant to what you’re applying for.
So how can you help yours stand out? To make sure you’re doing it right, here are our top tips to consider when writing your personal statement for your CV:
What is a personal statement?
A personal statement is generally the first thing included in your CV, and is a brief personal summary given to prospective employers to help you stand apart from the competition.
You will also need a personal statement for university applications. However, this will be much more detailed – and try and help you gain a place at uni.
Personal statements for university
Why do I need a personal statement?
Your personal statement is one of the most important parts of your CV.
It gives you a chance to sell yourself to the employer in a small and easy-to-digest paragraph. By summing up the specific skills and experience that make you perfect for the position, you’ll be able to prove your suitability and convince the recruiter to read on.
In fact, a well written personal statement can mean the difference between standing out from the crowd and your application being rejected.
How long should a personal statement be?
Ideally, your personal statement should be no more than around 150 words (or four or five lines of your CV). Any more than this and you run the risk of rambling and taking up valuable space.
Remember: it’s a summary, not a cover letter. So keep it concise, pertinent and to the point.
Try reading our personal statement examples to help you get started.
What do you put in a personal statement?
Successful personal statements answer the following questions:
- Who are you?
- What can you offer?
- What are your career goals?
To make sure you’ve ticked all the boxes, consider bullet-pointing answers to these when drafting your personal statement. And, if you’re struggling for inspiration, use the job description to help you identify the specific skills the employer is looking for.
For example, if it highlights that the perfect candidate will have excellent business analysis skills, make sure you cover this somewhere in your statement.
This could sound something like: ‘Working experience of strategic business analysis with an investigative and methodical approach to problem-solving.’
Personal statement: Dos and don’ts
How do you begin a personal statement?
Starting off with the ‘who are you?’ question, always aim to include a quick introduction as the first point.
An example opening for your personal statement could be: ‘A qualified and enthusiastic X, with over Y years’ worth of experience, currently searching for a Z position to utilise my skills and take the next step in my career’.
What tense should it be written in?
Your personal statement can be written in any person or tense – as long as you maintain consistency throughout.
This means avoiding statements like: ‘I am a recent business economics graduate. Excellent analytical and organisational skills. I am driven and self-motivated individual that always gives 100% in everything I do. Proven track record of successes’ –at all costs.
How long should I spend writing my personal statement?
A personal statement isn’t a one-size-fits all document.
In other words, a new one should be written for each application you send off. Although it might take some time to alter it according to each job role, your effort will make all the difference when it comes to impressing an employer.
After all, each job requires a slightly different set of skills and experience – meaning the level of focus you put on your abilities will change from application to application.
Remember: generic personal statements won’t get you anywhere – and sending off five well-written and tailored CVs has more value than sending out fifty generic ones.
Personal statement example
A recent business economics graduate with a 2:1 honours degree from the University of X, looking to secure a Graduate Commercial Analyst position or similar to utilise my current analytical skills and knowledge, and also help me to further develop these skills in a practical and fast-paced environment.
My eventual career goal is to assume responsibility for the analysis and implementation of all commercial data and actively contribute to the overall success of any business I work for.
Personal statement examples
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