How do you identify the purpose of and audience for your personal statement?

If you are asked to write a personal statement, you will be writing for a particular purpose and for a particular audience.

Start by identifying and writing down the purpose

An example would be: “I am writing this personal statement because I want to apply to a graduate program in international relations where I will focus on conflict resolution and peacekeeping.”


“I am writing this personal statement because I want to apply to medical school to become a physician who works with patients suffering from cancer.”

Next, identify your audience

Different audiences require different levels of information. Identifying your audience will help you determine the level of detail that you need to include about yourself and your proposed course of work or study.

Consider the difference between the two audiences below:

Example A

“I am applying to graduate school in International Relations at Johns Hopkins, and my audience is the Admissions Committee.”


These people will be familiar with the university’s program on International Relations.

Example B

“I am applying for a Fulbright Scholarship to do research on aquatic plants in Ecuador.”


Here, you will have three different audiences. The first is the committee of faculty at St. Olaf who will write an institutional endorsement for you. The second is the National Screening Committee, a committee of faculty and professionals, who will choose semi-finalists. The third is the Fulbright Commission or the U.S. Embassy in the host country, which will select finalists.

Thus, you need to keep all three audiences in mind— especially the audience in the host country.

How do you start writing your personal statement?