How to Write the Ideal Personal Statement for Your PhD or Master's Application

In addition to exam requirements, transcripts, CVs, references, and other papers needed for university applications, personal statements are sometimes requested for graduate and post-graduate programs. Let's explore what a graduate school personal statement is, why it matters, and how to create one that will enable you to enroll as an international student.

How to Write the Ideal Personal Statement for Your PhD or Master's Application

What is a personal statement letter?

Imagine that the university admissions committee is the jury and you are on trial. However, you're not attempting to establish your innocence in this instance. You are only attempting to demonstrate that you are the ideal applicant, deserving of admission to your chosen university's Master's or PhD program.

In order to achieve this, you will need to compose a brief essay that highlights your passion, experience, and suitability for the chosen degree through specific examples and supporting documentation.

The admissions committee is extended an invitation to learn more about you through your personal statement. It should also be the product of introspection, of you taking the time to discover who you are and what your future objectives should be, not just in terms of what you want to study but also in terms of what you want to do with your life after graduation.

Your personal statement should answer questions like these:

What makes the program for which you are applying the best fit for you?

If you adhere to the program, how will you benefit society?

Why, in light of your personality and past coursework, is this program the appropriate next step?

Your personal statement will persuade readers just as much as it does you. It is vital that you respond to these questions for yourself first, and that you are satisfied with the responses. 

What a personal statement is not

A cover letter for a job application should not be confused with a personal statement for a Master's or PhD application. Rather than focusing on why the university is fantastic and why you can't live without it, the personal statement should be more about you and how it fits into your goals.

Don't attempt to impress the application committee with your essay. Write nothing you believe they would be interested in reading. Simply share your experience with them, be genuine, and give them the chance to learn more about you as a person rather than simply your resume.

Don't begin your personal statement with a list of your application materials. Your letter has to be more than just a list of facts; rather, it should be a road map that highlights all you've accomplished together.

Your personal statement should not be treated like a journal article or research work. Maintain professionalism while remaining human. Simply said, act pleasant and conduct yourself as you would with a complete stranger. Being honest and open-minded doesn't mean you have to tell everything about someone you don't know well enough.

How should a letter of personal statement begin?

It's important to capture the reader's interest right away. How?

Consider your introductory paragraph to be your "elevator pitch," when you and a committee member enter an elevator. Before they get off, you have an opportunity to show them why you are the better option.

This is the format for the opening of your graduate school personal statement. Start off by discussing the topic that you find most intriguing or that the reader will find most interesting. Second, explain your motivation for enrolling in that Master's or PhD program. Describe your journey to this point, how you followed your passion, and how you're willing to put in more time and work in only two lines. Please provide an outline of your background in this field in the next two sentences! Let me finish by asking you what you plan to accomplish with your graduate degree!

Give yourself plenty of time to write a personal statement

What is the ideal length for a personal statement? How much time ought to you devote to writing it?

Short personal statements are necessary for graduate school applications. They should be between one and two pages long, or around 700 words. But you should take care to write it clearly and proofread it carefully for punctuation, grammatical, and spelling mistakes. Write each sentence with great thought since every word adds to the impact of your statement of purpose.

Give yourself many weeks to consider your message (as well as the delivery method). 

Consider the reasons for your application to this program. Things like a meeting you had with a specific academic, a course that inspired you, or a turning point in your academic career can all be included in your personal statement but not on your resume.

Don't anticipate miracles, and be prepared to go through several versions before reaching the final form! You ought not to be able to finish it in a single weekend.  

Additionally, give yourself enough time to proofread your statement three times over for any obvious errors. To ensure clarity, send a draft of your personal statement to a teaching assistant, a colleague, a thesis mentor, or your friendly neighborhood copy editor.

You should take an English proficiency exam to ensure that you are up to speed because your English proficiency can also make a difference.

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Research the programme you are applying to

Demonstrating your understanding of the topic you are joining is a necessary component of post-graduate research, particularly for PhD candidates. You may achieve this by mentioning in your personal statement how familiar you are with the academics in the field.

Show that you've thought carefully about the program for which you are applying. Refrain from telling them that you applied to their school since it is the best or that it is located in a city you would like to call home.

Nearly all university departments include information about their faculty members, including their areas of expertise and published works. Make the most of this information. Demonstrate that your research will feel at home in that department and that your interests coincide with those of the people who work there. Make sure to indicate in your personal statement whether you have already spoken with a professor at the institution.

Avoid clichés, junk, and too many details

How do you maintain the reader's interest while they read your letter? While you can express yourself in your personal statement, it is a grave sin to take up the admission committee's time.

Unprofessional authors frequently make the mistake of using long, pointless preambles. It reads something like this: "Mankind has used mathematical concepts to measure objects in the world since the beginning of time."

This type of statement is, to put it mildly, irksome and worthless as a general guideline of excellent writing. It might seem to someone reading this line that you're just attempting to brag or take up space. The committee members are only attempting to gather data about you so they can determine whether or not you are qualified for the program. You do not want to waste their time with pointless things.

Tell your life story only if it adds to the statement

Every time they write a personal statement, students are tempted to discuss personal experiences. However, you can exclude this sort of material if it detracts from the argument you are making.

For instance, if you're applying to a Master's degree in English literature, you may omit the sentence that states, "I've been a bookworm since I was a child." This type of remark won't help you stand out from the other applicants to the program because it is probably accurate for all of them.

Likewise, there's no need to state in your application to a medical school that you've "always wanted to help people" or that you "had a calling to be a doctor since age 7."

But there are significant facets of your past that will be useful here.

Talk about your internship experience and the learnings you made from it.

Discuss the results of your own extensive study effort and the things you learned about yourself.

Discuss your publications, conference talks, assistantships, and the lessons you learned from them.

Particularly if there is a clear connection between these experiences and the work you will be performing for your graduate degree, these types of specific information are more beneficial. These are the characteristics that will make you stand out from the competition.

Don't use the same personal statement for 10 different Master’s or PhD applications

Using the same personal statement when applying to several study programs is a typical error made by candidates. Advisors and instructors have reportedly advised "writing one personal statement" and "changing the university name" for each student.

This is a grave error!

To start with, each program asks a different set of questions that you must respond to in your personal statement.

Some ask about your involvement in extracurricular activities.

For your project, some people require a detailed proposal.

Some just ask you to state your motivation for applying to their institution.

Some people are curious about what makes you and the study you're conducting special.

Admissions officers are able to detect when you've submitted them your jumbled, old personal statement without giving it any attention. Rather, you have to have a strong personal statement that is specially developed for each program. While there will be some information overlap, there won't be much.

Avoiding this strategy is also advised because it frequently results in embarrassing faults and inaccuracies in the personal statement. Most admissions officers can probably remember an instance from the last round of applications where a student who was applying to Northwestern University expressed that "it would be an honor to be admitted to UCLA this year." 

Such mistakes occur when a candidate chooses to apply to every institution by using the same template. Writing a fresh powerful statement for every school would be the simplest and most reliable method to prevent such a grave mistake (which is why our first piece of advise is to give yourself lots of additional time).

A must-have list of what to include in your personal statement: 

An description of your purpose for taking the course, along with how the degree fits into your long-term goals, should be included. Avoid being very general or precise.

Demonstrate why you are the perfect student for this course by researching the prerequisites and what the program has to offer, then presenting your answers.

Discuss your extracurricular activities and highlight the times you went above and beyond. Avoid merely listing them. Demonstrate how they all work together to establish the direction you wish to go.

Mention the books, blogs, motivational speakers and videos, science publications you've read, and any related movies or documentaries that got you interested in applying. Have you had any meaningful influence in your life from tutors or teachers?

Mention pertinent experiences: What piqued your curiosity about the topic? This might be an internship, summer employment, summer school, volunteering program, or trips to locations that have impacted you. How do your future professional and personal objectives become influenced by your degree? – Allow the committee to determine how your study plan relates to your future and overall narrative.

What skills do you possess? . What abilities have you already acquired, and which ones do you still wish to acquire? How can the program assist you in acquiring those fresh competencies?

 This demonstrates your dedication to learning and your desire to advance. Steer clear of terms and generalizations. Give particular examples and concentrate on the ones that are most pertinent to the program.