How do you start writing your personal statement?

Once you have identified your purpose and audience, use the questions below to help you brainstorm about stories and experiences that will help your readers understand who you are and what you’ll bring to their program.

Your life story

  • What makes you unique or unusual?
  • What is distinctive about your life story?
  • Have you had to overcome adversity or obstacles to get where you are?
  • What are your leisure activities?
  • What do you do when you are not being a student?

Your interest in the particular field

  • When did you first realize that you had an interest in this field? Describe that moment
  • What else has influenced your interest over time?
  • What professors, classes, labs, papers, research projects, books, or ideas have influenced you?
  • What other experiences have influenced you (jobs, volunteer experiences, travel experiences, encounters with people, etc.)?
  • What personal characteristics (i.e. compassion, persistence) or skills (i.e. analytical, leadership) do you possess?
  • Why do you believe that you are well-suited to this field?
  • Your interest in a particular program and your longer-term goals

Can you name specific professors of interest at your top three graduate programs?

If so, list them along with their research/academic specialties

  • How might you contribute to the academic community you intend to be a part of?
  • How will they benefit by association with you?
  • What will you do with this degree (teach, research, work in industry or government, etc.)?

Your academic work

  • Make a list of the undergraduate papers, labs, and research projects that might relate to this field. If you can’t remember exact names, paraphrase
  • Do you have any publications or presentations at academic conferences?
  • Are there any publications or presentations that you could fit in between now and when you would begin your program?
  • What other academic, internship, work, or volunteer experiences will you acquire between now and when you would begin your graduate program?
  • What is your GPA in the following areas: overall, year by year, in your major, since you declared your major, etc. Look at your transcripts and see if there are other ways of analyzing your GPA that might be of interest to readers or might explain gaps or low points.