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Will replacing personal statements with application questions make university admissions fairer?

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Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for Student Inclusion and Professor of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, University of East Anglia

personal statement for access to higher education

Lecturer in the Humanities and Widening Participation Academic Lead, University of East Anglia

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Helena Gillespie receives funding from TASO for projects related to widening access. She is also a lead quality assessor for the Office for Students.

Mark Walmsley is a Director of the Foundation Year Network.

University of East Anglia provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.

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Prospective students will no longer be asked to write personal statements as part of their application to university in the UK, the admissions organisation Ucas has announced .

Instead of writing a single 4,000 character personal statement, from 2026 applicants will instead have to answer three questions. These ask why they want to study a particular course, how their education has prepared them for it, and how their experiences beyond education have contributed to their preparation. In total, responses to the three questions will still add up to the same 4,000 character limit.

The change is intended to make the application process fairer. Young people from less privileged backgrounds may not get the same support in writing their statement – or be able to detail the same extensive extracurricular achievements – as their wealthier peers.

As experts on student access and widening participation to higher education, we think the questions replacing the personal statement look sensible. They provide structure and should help students focus on what is important. But a more radical approach to admissions is required to create an equitable process for all students.

Ucas has faced pressure for some time to make such a change. A 2022 report from higher education think tank Hepi showed that students from backgrounds underrepresented in higher education found including academic discussion in their statement and structuring it challenging. They also felt unsure about how to impress admissions tutors.

More generally, persistent gaps remain between the educational opportunities afforded to the most privileged in society and those who have been systematically and institutionally disadvantaged.

What’s more, admission gaps – the difference in the proportion of students from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds – are often highest in the most prestigious and competitive courses and institutions. These gaps have grown since 2018 .

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Writing about their rationale for selecting the course should help students clarify their own intentions, as well as demonstrating their commitment to the admissions tutors. The second question, focusing on a student’s academic preparation for the course, should be straightforward to answer if they have studied a related set of prior qualifications. It may be trickier when a student is applying for a course which isn’t directly related to their previous academic experience.

The final question is probably the hardest for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, as it asks about preparation for the course outside the classroom. This may be less easy to answer if a student’s financial or social situation has prevented them from engaging in extracurricular activities. This might be because of costs or caring responsibilities.

While these changes are welcome, we believe a more radical approach to admissions is required if we are serious about creating a more equitable process for all students. Research analysis of personal statements has shown that applicants from different backgrounds do not have the same level of preparation for this aspect of university entrance, and this is likely to also be true of the questions replacing the long personal statement.

But rather than scrap the personal statement altogether, the response has been to improve the information and guidance provided to students. By making the process clearer, the changes announced by UCAS should lead to a reduction in the cultural and social advantages enjoyed by more privileged students. In addition, the approach using short answer questions aligns with inclusive recruitment processes now seem more widely in the world of work.

Further change

However further change is needed to make access to higher education truly fair. This would involve recognising that educational disadvantages prevent some students from reaching their academic potential, and that the intensive nature of private and elite education can exaggerate the academic strengths of other candidates.

Ucas itself has led the way in this area. It produces a “multiple equality measure” , which uses student data to categorise applicants into five groups. Students in each of these groups have similar levels of educational advantage, allowing for fairer comparison against their peers.

This information allows universities to make “contextual offers” – perhaps giving students from more disadvantaged backgrounds more consideration, an offer with lower required grades or an unconditional offer.

There is a growing acknowledgement within higher education that this process of contextualising admissions is important to make university admissions fairer. However, not all universities make contextual offers and some view the reduction in entry tariff – a common component of contextual admission policies – as potentially risking the quality of the student intake and the university’s reputation.

What’s more, universities may use their own measures to determine their contextual admission policies. This maintains institutional autonomy and means universities can be responsive to their local context. But the added complexity can be a barrier to uptake if applicants can’t easily understand where and how they qualify for such schemes, or what benefits they might receive as a result.

The change to the personal statement is a good move. But higher education needs to be doing more. This includes improving and potentially standardising current approaches to contextual admission policies. They need to be a major part of the admissions landscape if universities are to make real progress towards helping students from all backgrounds access higher education.

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Writing the Personal Statement

Helpful tips and advice for drafting a compelling personal statement when applying for graduate admission.

Make sure to check the appropriate program website to find out if your statement should include additional or specific information.

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;
  • 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 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.

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Write Your Best Personal Statement: Tips from Admissions Offices

Struggling with how to write your best personal statement? Here are two of the most helpful collections of tips from admissions offices.

From The University of California, Berkeley:

Writing the personal statement.

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 belong 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;
  • 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 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.

From Saint Mary’s College:

A sample outline for personal statements.

This outline is meant to be a guide to writing a personal statement. It does not represent the only format for a personal statement. Take the information that is most helpful to you and adapt it to meet your specific needs!

Introductory Paragraph

Although you may be tempted to jump right into a narrative of your earliest accomplishments, begin instead by focusing on why the law school/med school/grad school has attracted your interest and why you consider yourself an able candidate for the position. This opening paragraph need not be extensive, but it should sketch out your view of yourself as a capable individual who has the necessary confidence, maturity, and talent to success in this venture. Somewhere in your introductory paragraph, either in your first or last sentence, you should define yourself in a succinct way (this corresponds to the function of a thesis statement in an ordinary essay).

The Body of the Personal Statement, Part 1: The Recent Past

Saint Mary’s students generally tend to be reluctant to beat their own drum, either out of politeness or humility. But remember that only you can put your best foot forward and that all other candidates will do the same. A personal statement should not be egotistical, but it should not be modest. Your readers will be looking for reasons to stop reading your essay, so use all your ammunition (it isn’t bragging if you can back up your assertions with facts). When you write about your educational and/or employment background in the next two or three paragraphs, emphasize how these experiences and activities helped to shape the person you have become (in addition, of course, to family and other influences—but keep those references to a minimum to keep the spotlight on you). Find ways to illustrate the value of your educational and work experiences, providing as much detailed commentary as you can to make your experiences interesting to the reader.

The Body of the Personal Statement, Part 2: The Present

Add a paragraph or two presenting yourself as you are now. Stress the qualities that you believe best characterize you such as confidence, maturity, intellectual curiosity, and the determination to succeed. This part of your essay will answer the following question: who are you now and why? Once again, the more concrete you can be regarding your positive self-image, the more likely the reader is to accept what you say about yourself as more than mere rhetoric.

The Body of the Personal Statement, Part 3: The Future

In a paragraph or two, present a positive forecast of your future development in relation to the specific career or profession you wish to pursue. Obviously, you will feel more confident and have a more specific idea about your immediate future, rather than your long-range plans, but visualizing your professional identity two or three decades from now demonstrates both vision and determination. In this part of the personal statement you may wish to address some of the following questions: How will the grad school/law school/med school you are presently pursuing be an important stepping stone leading to your life’s work? What do you hope to accomplish in life? What are your personal goals and/or career objectives? How do you see yourself evolving in the next several years?

The Concluding Paragraph

After forecasting your future, you may be tempted to end your personal statement on that visionary note. But a brief conclusion will help by summarizing, for the reader’s benefit, your past accomplishments, your present sense of identity, and your future goals. Try to make your last sentence a real clincher so that the reader has a vivid impression of you.

The Most Important Step

Now that you have written the first draft of your personal statement, prune it mercilessly so that only the most essential points remain. Edit your work thoroughly, as well, to make your sentences more concise and declarative. Remember, not everything in this guideline sheet will be applicable to every potential audience, so tailor your personal statement to the specific task at hand. Above all, don’t be discouraged by any rejections. Your diligence and belief in yourself will eventually be rewarded. Good luck!

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This post originally appeared on PolyArchive.com .

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How to Write a Personal Statement That Wows Colleges

← What Is an Application Theme and Why Is It Important?

10 Personal Statement Examples That Work →

personal statement for access to higher education

  Most of the college applications process is fairly cut and dry. You’ll submit information about your classes and grades, standardized test scores, and various other accomplishments and honors. On much of the application, your accomplishments must speak for themselves. 

The personal statement is different though, and it’s your chance to let your voice be heard. To learn more about the personal statement, how to choose a topic, and how to write one that wows colleges, don’t miss this post.

What is the Personal Statement?

Personal statements are used in both undergraduate and graduate admissions. For undergrad admissions, personal statements are any essays students must write to submit their main application. For example, the Common App Essay and Coalition Application Essay are examples of personal statements. Similarly, the ApplyTexas Essays and University of California Essays are also good examples .

Personal statements in college admissions are generally not school-specific (those are called “supplemental essays”). Instead, they’re sent to a wide range of schools, usually every school you apply to. 

What is the Purpose of the Personal Statement?

The personal statement is generally your opportunity to speak to your unique experiences, qualities, or beliefs that aren’t elsewhere represented on the application. It is a chance to break away from the data that defines you on paper, and provide a glimpse into who you really are. In short, it’s the admissions committee’s chance to get to know the real you.

So, what are colleges looking for in your personal statement? They are looking for something that sets you apart. They are asking themselves: do you write about something truly unique? Do you write about something common, in a new and interesting way? Do you write about an aspect of your application that needed further explanation? All of these are great ways to impress with your personal statement.

Beyond getting to know you, admissions committees are also evaluating your writing skills. Are you able to write clearly and succinctly? Can you tell an engaging story? Writing effectively is an important skill in both college and life, so be sure to also fine-tune your actual writing (grammar and syntax), not just the content of your essay.

Is your personal statement strong enough? Get a free review of your personal statement with CollegeVine’s Peer Essay Review.

How To a Choose A Topic For Your Personal Statement

Most of the time, you’re given a handful of prompts to choose from. Common personal statement prompts include:

  • Central aspect of your identity (activity, interest, talent, background)
  • Overcoming a failure
  • Time you rose to a challenge or showed leadership
  • Experience that changed your beliefs
  • Problem you’d like to solve
  • Subject or idea that captivates you

One of the questions that we hear most often about the personal statement is, “How do I choose what to write about?” For some students, the personal statement prompt triggers an immediate and strong idea. For many more, there is at least initially some uncertainty.

We often encourage students to think less about the exact prompt and more about what aspects of themselves they think are most worthy of highlighting. This is especially helpful if you’re offered a “topic of your choice” prompt, as the best essay topic for you might actually be one you make up!

For students with an interesting story or a defining background, these can serve as the perfect catalyst to shape your approach. For students with a unique voice or different perspective, simple topics written in a new way can be engaging and insightful.

Finally, you need to consider the rest of your application when you choose a topic for your personal statement. If you are returning from a gap year, failed a single class during sophomore year, or participated extensively in something you’re passionate about that isn’t elsewhere on your application, you might attempt to address one of these topics in your statement. After all, the admissions committee wants to get to know you and understand who you really are, and these are all things that will give them a deeper understanding of that.

Still, tons of students have a decent amount of writer’s block when it comes to choosing a topic. This is understandable since the personal statement tends to be considered rather high stakes. To help you get the ball rolling, we recommend the post What If I Don’t Have Anything Interesting To Write About In My College Essay?

Tips for Writing a Personal Statement for College

1. approach this as a creative writing assignment..

Personal statements are difficult for many students because they’ve never had to do this type of writing. High schoolers are used to writing academic reports or analytical papers, but not creative storytelling pieces.

The point of creative writing is to have fun with it, and to share a meaningful story. Choose a topic that inspires you so that you’ll enjoy writing your essay. It doesn’t have to be intellectual or impressive at all. You have your transcript and test scores to prove your academic skills, so the point of the personal statement is to give you free rein to showcase your personality. This will result in a more engaging essay and reading experience for admissions officers. 

As you’re writing, there’s no need to follow the traditional five-paragraph format with an explicit thesis. Your story should have an overarching message, but it doesn’t need to be explicitly stated—it should shine through organically. 

Your writing should also feel natural. While it will be more refined than a conversation with your best friend, it shouldn’t feel stuffy or contrived when it comes off your tongue. This balance can be difficult to strike, but a tone that would feel natural when talking with an admired teacher or a longtime mentor is usually a good fit.

2. Show, don’t tell.

One of the biggest mistakes students make is to simply state everything that happened, instead of actually bringing the reader to the moment it happened, and telling a story. It’s boring to read: “I was overjoyed and felt empowered when I finished my first half marathon.” It’s much more interesting when the writing actually shows you what happened and what the writer felt in that moment: “As I rounded the final bend before the finish line, my heart fluttered in excitement. The adrenaline drowned out my burning legs and gasping lungs. I was going to finish my first half marathon! This was almost incomprehensible to me, as someone who could barely run a mile just a year ago.”

If you find yourself starting to write your essay like a report, and are having trouble going beyond “telling,” envision yourself in the moment you want to write about. What did you feel, emotionally and physically? Why was this moment meaningful? What did you see or hear? What were your thoughts?

For inspiration, read some memoirs or personal essays, like The New York Times Modern Love Column . You could also listen to podcasts of personal stories, like The Moth . What do these writers and storytellers do that make their stories engaging? If you didn’t enjoy a particular story, what was it that you didn’t like? Analyzing real stories can help you identify techniques that you personally resonate with.

3. Use dialogue.

A great way to keep your writing engaging is to include some dialogue. Instead of writing: “My brothers taunted me,” consider sharing what they actually said. It’s more powerful to read something like:

“Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” they taunted. “Having some trouble?” They prodded me with the ends of the chewed branches and, with a few effortless scrapes of wood on rock, sparked a red and roaring flame. My face burned long after I left the fire pit. The camp stank of salmon and shame. 

Having dialogue can break up longer paragraphs of text, and bring some action and immediacy to your story. That being said, don’t overdo it. It’s important to strike a balance between relying too much on dialogue, and using it occasionally as an effective writing tool. You don’t want your essay to read like a script for a movie (unless, of course, that’s intentional and you want to showcase your screenwriting skills!).

Want free essay feedback? Submit your essay to CollegeVine’s Peer Essay Review and get fast, actionable edits on your essay. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Personal Statements

1. giving a recap or report of all the events..

Your essay isn’t a play-by-play of everything that happened in that time frame. Only include relevant details that enrich the story, instead of making your personal statement a report of the events. Remember that the goal is to share your voice, what’s important to you, and who you are. 

2. Writing about too many events or experiences. 

Similarly, another common mistake is to make your personal statement a resume or recap of all your high school accomplishments. The Activities Section of the Common App is the place for listing out your achievements, not your personal statement. Focus on one specific experience or a few related experiences, and go into detail on those. 

3. Using cliche language.

Try to avoid overdone quotes from famous people like Gandhi or Thoreau. Better yet, try to avoid quotes from other people in general, unless it’s a message from someone you personally know. Adding these famous quotes won’t make your essay unique, and it takes up valuable space for you to share your voice.

You should also steer away from broad language or lavish claims like “It was the best day of my life.” Since they’re so cliche, these statements also obscure your message, and it’s hard to understand what you actually mean. If it was actually the best day of your life, show us why, rather than just telling us.

If you want to learn more about personal statements, see our post of 11 Common App Essay Examples .

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

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If you’re applying to graduate school, you’ll likely need to write a personal statement. But what exactly is a graduate school personal statement? And what should you write about to give yourself your best shot at admission?

In this guide, we teach you how to write a personal statement for grad school, step by step. But first, let’s go over how the personal statement differs from the statement of purpose as well as what schools look for in a great graduate school essay.

What Is a Graduate School Personal Statement?

A graduate school personal statement is an admission essay that typically focuses on your personal reasons for wanting to enter a grad program and particular field of study. Essentially, you must tell the story of who you are and how you developed your current research interests.

So is a personal statement for graduate school the same thing as a statement of purpose? Well, not always (though it can be). Here are the general distinctions between the two essay types:

  • Statement of purpose:  A formal essay that summarizes your academic and professional background, research interests, and career goals. In this essay, you’ll usually explain your reasons for applying to grad school and why you believe the program is a good fit for you (as well as why you’re a good fit for it!).
  • Personal statement: A less formal essay that focuses on your passion and motivation for wanting to enter your chosen field and program. This statement is typically more flexible than the statement of purpose, with a bigger emphasis on storytelling. Schools often encourage applicants to discuss (relevant) challenges in their lives and how they’ve overcome them.

Both the graduate school personal statement and statement of purpose are usually anywhere from one to three double-spaced pages long, depending on the program you’re applying to.

Below is a chart comparing the personal statement and statement of purpose:

 

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.

Formal

 

 

 

Varies, but usually 1-3 double-spaced pages

 

Less formal

Usually, the personal statement and statement of purpose are considered two different graduate school essay types.

But this isn’t always the case. While some schools consider the personal statement and statement of purpose two distinct essays, others use the names interchangeably.

For example, Michigan State University’s College of Engineering  considers them two distinct essays, while The Ohio State University uses “personal statement” to describe what is essentially a statement of purpose.

Many schools require just one essay  (and it’ll usually be the statement of purpose, as it’s the more academic one). But some, such as the University of Michigan , ask for both a personal statement and statement of purpose, while others, such as  Notre Dame’s Creative Writing MFA program , want an essay that combines the features of both!

Ultimately, the type of graduate school essay you  submit will depend entirely on where you’re applying.

body_accepted_stamp

What Do Schools Look For in a Personal Statement?

Many grad schools require a personal statement in order to learn more about you, your interests, your struggles, and your motivations for wanting to enter a field of study. Through this essay, schools can get to know you on a deeper, more intimate level and learn about you in ways they can’t through transcripts and letters of recommendation alone.

But what specifically do universities look for in a great personal statement for graduate school? Here are some of the most important elements to include in your essay.

A Compelling Story

First off, your personal statement must tell a story. After all, this essay is basically your autobiography: it introduces who you are, your interests and motivations, and why you’ve decided to apply to grad school.

Unlike the statement of purpose, the personal statement should focus mostly on your personal history, from your failures to your triumphs. All experiences should tie back to your field or research area, emphasizing what you’ve learned and what this means in terms of your potential as a grad student.

Since you’re talking about yourself, be conversational in your storytelling: use an authentic voice, open up about your experiences, and maybe even throw in a joke or two. Though you’re still writing an essay for school, it’s generally OK to be a little more informal here than you would in a statement of purpose.

That said, there are a couple of things you absolutely shouldn’t do in your personal statement.

  • Open your essay with a quotation. Professors have heard the quotation before and don’t need (or want) to hear it again. Plus, quotations often take up too much space in an already short essay!
  • Use clichés. Think of unique ways to tell your story and grab readers’ attention. Schools want to see you can be creative yet honest about yourself, so avoid clichés like the plague (see what I did there?).
  • Get too creative. Your goal is to look like a serious, committed applicant—not a wacky risk taker—so write clearly and avoid any unnecessary distractions such as images, colors, and unprofessional fonts.

Most importantly, remember that your graduate school personal statement should focus on your successes. Try to use strong, encouraging words and put positive twists on difficult experiences whenever possible. It’s OK to mention your setbacks, too—just as long as you’re discussing how you ultimately overcame (or plan to overcome) them.

Inspirations for Your Research Interests

Schools don’t only want to see clearly defined research interests but also  why you have these particular interests.   While the statement of purpose elaborates on your professional goals, the personal statement explains what personally motivated you to explore your interests.

For example, in my personal statement for a Japanese Studies MA program, I wrote about my hot-and-cold relationship with the Japanese language and how a literature class and a stint abroad ultimately inspired me to keep learning.

Don’t make the mistake of going way back to the beginning to start your essay. Many applicants open their statements with something along the lines of “I fell in love with psychology when I was ten years old” or “It all started when I was in high school.” But these broad statements lack the creativity and zest needed to secure an acceptance, so avoid them at all costs.

body_can_cant

Your Motivation for Applying to Grad School

Your statement of purpose should explain why grad school is a practical next step in your professional life—but your personal statement should focus on what personally motivates you to take this step.

Generally, schools want answers to the following questions:

  • Why is grad school an appropriate step for you now?
  • How will a graduate degree help you achieve your goals?
  • Why didn’t you apply to grad school earlier (if you took time off after undergrad)?
  • Were there any struggles or problems you faced that prevented you from applying to grad school before?

Be honest about why you’re applying, both to grad school and the program in particular. In my graduate school essay, I discussed how my passion for Japanese literature and desire to translate it inspired me to seek advanced language training at the graduate level.

Strong Writing Skills

A great personal statement shows that you can write cogently and coherently. After all, strong writing skills are imperative for success as a grad student!

So in addition to telling a good story, make sure you use correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Use paragraphs to break up your thoughts, too. Because the personal statement is slightly less formal than the statement of purpose, feel free to play around a little with paragraph form and length.

Also, remember that  good writing doesn’t necessarily equal big words.  You’re writing about yourself, so use words that come naturally to you. Don’t grab a thesaurus and start throwing in a bunch of high-level vocabulary wherever you can; this will make your essay sound less authentic, not to mention stiff.

On the other hand, don’t get too colloquial. You’ll lose respect if you start inserting conversational words such as “gonna” and “gotta.” Therefore, look for the middle ground and write from there.

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Explanations for Any Hiccups in Your Academic Career

Lastly, the personal statement  gives applicants a chance to explain any problems or changes in their academic histories, such as low grades or gaps in education.

Because transcripts and resumes are severely limited in what information they give, schools often use the personal statement to understand your reasons for abrupt changes in your resume and/or transcripts, and to see how you’ve overcome these barriers in your education (and life).

Essentially, a personal statement equalizes the playing field by giving you full rein to explain yourself and emphasize your success over any struggles you’ve had.

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How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School: 9-Step Guide

The personal statement is a fiercely important part of your grad school application. In this section, we teach you how to write a memorable personal statement for grad school so that you’ll have a better shot at getting accepted.

Step 1: Start Early

Personal statements (actually, grad school applications in general!) take a lot of work, so don’t put off writing your essay until the week before your deadline. Rather, try to start working on your essay at least two or three months before your application is due.

You might want to give yourself more time to write it if you’re currently in school or working a demanding job. Setting aside more time lets you work on your graduate school essay routinely without having to squeeze in too many hours each week.

If you only have a month or less until your application deadline, get started on your essay pronto! Though it’s possible to write a personal statement quickly, I recommend carving out more time so that you can put more thought and effort into what you write and how you present yourself. (Doing this also gives others more time to edit your essay for you! We’ll cover this more in later steps.)

Step 2: Read the Instructions

Perhaps the most important step is to read your program’s instructions for the personal statement. Not following these instructions could very well result in a rejection, so always read these first before you start writing! Most programs put their personal statement instructions on their application materials pages.

Your program should give you the following information:

  • What type of content your personal statement should include or generally focus on (you might even get an actual prompt to answer!)
  • How long your statement should be
  • What type of heading, if any, you must include on your statement
  • How to save and submit your statement (e.g., .docx, PDF, etc.)

For example, let’s say you’re applying to the History PhD program at UC Berkeley . In this case, your personal statement can’t exceed 1,000 words (three double-spaced pages). You must also answer this prompt :

Please describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please include information on how you have overcome barriers to access in higher education, evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education, evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality, or evidence of your leadership among such groups.

On the other hand, if you were to apply for an MS in Mining, Geological, and Geophysical Engineering at the University of Arizona , your personal statement would follow these parameters:

Your personal statement is an opportunity to sell yourself, in terms of your research interests, research experience and research goals. Unless you have extensive research experience, most personal statements should be about two single-spaced pages. Your writing should be clear, concise, grammatically correct and professional in tone. You may convey some personal experiences that have led to your current interests or that make you a particularly promising candidate.

Clearly, grad programs can approach personal statements quite differently. Some schools consider them the same as statements of purpose and want a formal focus on academic and research interests, while others want applicants to explain more informally the challenges they’ve overcome to get to this point.

Simply put,  follow your program’s directions exactly in order to give yourself your best shot at admission.  And if any part of the instructions is unclear, don’t hesitate to contact your program!

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Step 3: Figure Out Your Angle

Your “angle,” or focus, in your graduate school personal statement will depend on a few key factors:

  • What your grad program wants you to write about
  • Your field of study and research interests
  • How much experience you have in your field

As I mentioned in step 2, it’s extremely important to  read the personal statement instructions for your program. Many times these guidelines will tell you what to include in your essay, thereby clarifying what your overall angle needs to be.

Let’s look back at the example we used above for UC Berkeley’s doctoral program in history. If you were applying here and came from a low-income family, you could discuss how you’ve overcome these financial challenges in your life to get to where you are today.

No matter the prompt, you’ll need to discuss your research interests (to some degree) in your personal statement.  How much you talk about your interests, however, will depend on whether you have to submit a separate statement of purpose. If so, you can focus less on your research plans and more on your passions and motivations for applying.

On the other hand, if your personal statement is essentially a statement of purpose, dive deep into your research interests—that is,  be specific! For example, those applying to English lit programs should think about the works, eras, and writers they want to study, and why.

More broadly, though, try to answer the question of  what you hope to accomplish, either during or after the program. Is there any particular project you want to do? Skills you want to improve? Field you want to break into?

Finally, always choose a positive angle.  Use affirmative words and phrases to highlight both your successes and overall enthusiasm for the program.

Step 4: Ask Yourself, “Why This Program? Why This Field?”

Although the statement of purpose usually answers this question directly, you’ll likely need to address this in your personal statement as well—ideally, with a less academic and more conversational tone.

As you brainstorm, try to come up with answers to the following questions:

  • What goals or experiences led you to apply to this program?
  • How will this program help you grow on a personal level?
  • What made you interested in this field? Why do you want to study it more?
  • What are your research interests? How did you develop these interests?
  • Are there any particular professors you wish to work with?

Step 5: Make an Outline

Now that you’ve brainstormed some ideas, it’s time to start outlining your essay.

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How you choose to outline your statement is up to you. Some people like drawing bubble charts for organizing their thoughts, whereas others (like myself) prefer to write a list of rough ideas in the general order they want to present them.

Even if you’re not sure whether you want to include something, just add it to your outline anyway. You can always cut it out later as you draft and edit.

Step 6: Draft Your Essay

It’s now time to start writing! Once you’ve got your outline ready, work on expanding what you’ve written into full-fledged paragraphs.

In the beginning, it’s OK to write down anything you feel is relevant, but as you continue to draft, try to look for any extraneous information you can chop.

Remember, most personal statements will be short— usually one to two double-spaced pages—so you don’t want to risk exceeding your program’s word limit. Schools want to see that you can tell a story concisely yet effectively.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a way to open your statement, try skipping around as you draft. Go ahead and jump to a paragraph you have more ideas for—it’s perfectly OK! Just make sure you start to tie all of your ideas together the closer you get to finishing your draft.

On a related note, be careful not to copy any material from your statement of purpose (if you’re required to submit two separate essays). These statements may share a little overlap but should still focus on different aspects of your (academic) life, accomplishments, and goals.

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Step 7: Get Feedback

Once you finish drafting, give your essay to people you trust for feedback. This could be a parent, friend, sibling, or mentor (such as a former or current professor).

Ask your editors to give you  specific feedback  on what you can change, both stylistically and technically, to make it more impactful. Ideally, they’ll also note any unclear, awkward, or redundant ideas/phrases and will offer you helpful suggestions for improvement.

If you’ve written a separate statement of purpose, see whether your editors are willing to check that essay over as well so that you can ensure there isn’t too much overlap between the two.

Step 8: Revise & Edit Your Essay

Once you get feedback, revise and edit your personal statement using your editors’ comments as a guide.

For example, if your editors told you your essay lacked detail, look for places in your writing where you can be more specific and that are likely to have a strong impact on the admission committee.

As you revise, keep an eye out for any awkward sentences or extraneous information. Personal statements are usually pretty brief and you don’t want to accidentally exceed the word limit. So when in doubt, take it out!

Step 9: Proofread

The final step is to proofread your draft. Start by using your computer’s spell check function to quickly find any glaring typos and grammatical errors.

Then, proofread your essay one sentence at a time. Since it’s easy to miss errors in your own writing, I recommend editing your essay from back to front (i.e., from the last sentence to the first sentence). Doing this prevents you from glossing over words and lets you pinpoint punctuation, spelling, and grammatical errors more easily.

In addition, check that you have page numbers on each page (if required—though I suggest adding them regardless) and a proper heading (again, if required) that meets the requirements of your program.

Before you submit it, see if you can get someone else (preferably one or all of your editors from step 7) to look over your final draft as well.  If anyone spots a problem with your essay, go back to step 8. If you get all thumbs ups, read over your statement one last time and then turn it in without looking back! (Seriously, don’t read it again or you’re going to want to change something.)

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The Key to a Great Graduate School Personal Statement

The personal statement is an essential part of your grad school application. Like the statement of purpose, it highlights your research interests, experiences, and goals.

But more importantly, the personal statement showcases  your unbridled passion for your field, lets you reflect on challenges you’ve faced (and subsequently overcome), and answers the overarching question of why you want to attend grad school.

A great graduate school personal statement will normally include most or all of the following elements:

  • A compelling story
  • Inspirations for your research interests
  • Your motivation for applying to grad school
  • Strong writing skills
  • Explanations for any changes or problems in your academic career

Above, we walked you through how to write a personal statement for grad school. To recap, here are the nine steps to follow:

  • Start early—at least two or three months before your application is due
  • Read your program’s instructions for the personal statement
  • Figure out your angle by brainstorming ideas
  • Ask yourself, “Why this program/field?”
  • Make an outline using charts, a list, etc.
  • Draft your essay
  • Get specific feedback from multiple editors
  • Revise and edit your essay
  • Proofread (and get other people to proofread it, too!)

What’s Next?

Need to write a statement of purpose, too? Waste no time!  Our expert guide offers tons of tips to help you come up with a statement of purpose that’s certain to impress admission committees.

Do your schools require a CV or resume?  If you’re totally lost on where to begin, read our guides to learn how to put together a great CV or resume for grad school. And for extra help, check out our four original CV and resume templates !

What do you need to submit for your grad school application?  Get the scoop on what kinds of materials you’ll need to prepare when applying to grad school .

Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?

personal statement for access to higher education

Author: Hannah Muniz

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel. View all posts by Hannah Muniz

personal statement for access to higher education

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  • Education Masters Personal Statement Sample

Written by Hannah Slack

This is an example personal statement for a Masters degree application in Education. See our guide for advice on writing your own postgraduate personal statement .

Recent developments in the social and political landscapes have strongly highlighted the importance of education for children in schools. Studying an undergraduate degree in History allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of societal change over time. Completing modules in Public History also let me explore the importance of education.

Having completed my degree, I decided that my true passions lie in the educational field. After a few years working in a secondary school, I became increasingly interested in how the national curriculum is built. To help propel my career into curriculum design and management, I decided completing a Masters at your university would be the best option.

As I have already mentioned, I completed my undergraduate degree in History. Afterwards, I went on to earn a PGCE and have been teaching humanities at secondary level for two years. During, I took a particular interest in the curriculum assigned for each year. Our current societal climate has been questioning some of the contents of the English curriculum, particularly in the Humanities. In light of these criticisms, I was inspired to also think deeply about how chosen topics contribute to the education system and what kind of topics could be appropriately brought in to expand our horizons. A Masters degree is therefore the perfect opportunity for me to continue exploring these questions and learn more about the practical implications of curricular design.

In addition to my qualifications, I volunteered at a museum during the summer holidays where I helped run educational events for children. This was particularly useful for me as it allowed me to learn how to compact and communicate complex periods to a young audience. It also helped me learn how to make subjects easily accessible and enjoyable.

Completing two years of teaching has built up my leadership skills rapidly. As a teacher I have been able to learn more about the role of educational leadership. I have also enjoyed communicating with my own superiors to learn more about their responsibilities in higher positions.

I was particularly excited when I discovered your course. By having a global focus, this course will allow me to truly explore the issues and debates I’m interested in. I believe having an understanding of global events and education is going to become increasingly important in our increasingly globalised world. I therefore believe that this course will prepare me the best for my future career goals as a curriculum developer.

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The course that I’m looking to pursue is MSc Computer Science at York St John University (YSJU). By studying this course, I will be able to gain invaluable in-depth and practical knowledge which will help me in starting a successful career. Moreover, getting the opportunity to study in this university will help me advance both professionally and academically. In addition, the opportunity to apply my theories and ideas in practice will benefit me to e....

PersonalStatement- BSc (Hons) Pharmaceutical Science

I want to pursue the BSc (Hons) Pharmaceutical Science programme at University of Hertfordshire. The University works with a wide range of pharmaceutical industries who input the course design and teaching which meets the changing demands of the workplace and give students a path to achieve their future career goal. Over and above, I believe getting a chance to pursue my study career in this University will progress me both professionally and intellectuall....

Personal Statement - BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science

The human body is one of the most amazing things on earth. The desire to study biomedical science came from my school life when I was studying biology and was greatly fascinated by the biology of the human body. My goal in studying biomedical science is to gain a deeper understanding of the human body. I am willing to pursue a BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science with International Foundation programme (Malvern House) at the University of East London. By studying....

Personal Statement - MSc Logistics and Supply Chain Management

  I am keen to pursue MSc (PGCertPGDip) Logistics and Supply Chain Management progamme at the University of Brighton because the professional world today is highly competitive and the importance of supply chain management and logistics in globalization, and digitization has multiplied. As I aim to improve and strengthen my knowledge of this Logistics and Supply Chain Management. This course covers topics such as Digital Supply Chain, International ....

PersonalStatement- BSc (Hons) Computer Science

The course that I’m looking to pursue is BSc (Hons) Computer Science at University of East London (UEL). Through the teachings of this course, I will be able to gain invaluable in-depth and practical knowledge which will help me in starting a successful career. The opportunity to apply my theories and ideas in practice will benefit me to enhance my skills and knowledge and to achieve a deeper understanding of the field of Web Technologies, Computer S....

Personal Statement - LLM International Law and Social Justice

I am keen to pursue LLM International Law and Social Justice at University of Brighton. This LL.M in international law and Social Justice will complement and enhance my Bachelor degree. The application is supported by my CV and evidence of my qualifications, references and my eligibility to study. This will verify the information contained within this application. If I may complete the LLM international law and Social Justice, I will get a vast idea about ....

Personal Statement - MSc Management with Professional Development and Planning

I, S Ahmed, am from Bangladesh a highly ambitious boy. I am 27 years old. I have decided to study in the MSc Management with Professional Development and Planning (PDP) Programme at BPP University because it is a comprehensive and detailed course of study that provides the knowledge and skills needed by contemporary global business organisations. As this course prepares graduates for management-level positions and so I am looking forward to achieving this ....

Personal Statement of Purpose - MBA

I am keen to study MBA at York Saint John University, London. This course is suitable for me to enhance my academic qualifications and it will be a great opportunity to start a successful career through deep insights and practical knowledge. Moreover, I believe getting a chance to pursue my study career in this University will progress me both professionally and intellectually, besides the opportunity to apply my theories and ideas in practice will benefit....

Personal Statement of Purpose - BSc (Hons) Computer Science with International Foundation Programme

I am intending to pursue the BSc (Hons) Computer Science with International Foundation Programme at University of East London (Malvern House). This course is currently in the midst of a technological and computing revolution that will radically change my life and potentially redefine what it means to be human. I will be able to build a strong foundation in computer science fundamentals in this course, including modeling and designing information systems, d....

Personal Statement - BSc (Hons) Business Management

I am keen to study the BSc (Hons) Business Management with International Foundation Programmeat the University of East London.I am very ambitious and I have always been interested in management-related things. I believe Management to be a fast-developing profession as business industries are heavily involved with their management for all kinds of decisions, and I find the prospect of working in this field inspiring. And I found that studying this course wi....

SOP – MSc Management with Project Management

My name is BalajiYadagani, and I’m a 28-year-old Indian looking to pursue MSc Management with Project Management with Professional Development and Planning (PDP) at BPP University. This course is suitable for me to enhance my academic qualifications and it will be a great opportunity to start a successful career through deep insights and practical knowledge. I have gained knowledge and skills of English language during my bachelor’s at Jawaharl....

SOP - MSc Management with Professional Development and Planning

I want to study the MSc Management with Professional Development and Planning (PDP) module offered by BPP University because the programme is a comprehensive and detailed programme of study that offers the knowledge and skills demanded by contemporary global business organizations. The programme provides a range of theoretical knowledge of modern business practice while equips with number of practical skills that can enhance my competitive edge to potentia....

Personal statement - MSc International Management

I am keen to pursue MSc International Management at University of Brighton. By researching the course curriculum available at university website, I become to know that this course helps students to develop the global business knowledge which will help me to achieve my future career goal. Moreover, I believe getting a chance to pursue my study career in thisUniversity will progress me both professionally and intellectually. Besides the opportunity to apply ....

Personal Statement - MSc Healthcare Leadership

My name is Md R Islam and I am 25 years old. I am from Bangladesh. Right now, I am intending to pursue the MSc Healthcare Leadership programme at BPP University. By studying this programme I will be able to evaluate critically a range of leadership models, techniques, and appropriate application to everyday working practice. Moreover, I believe getting a chance to pursue this MSc course at this University will progress me both professionally and intellectu....

SOP - MSc Computer Science with Professional Experience

I amkeento pursueMSc ComputerSciencewith ProfessionalExperienceatYork StJohn University. This programme will balance bothadvancedpractical skills and theoreticalknowledge to providewith theabilityto entera range ofprofessionalIT disciplines andemployment.Moreover, this coursehelps student to furtherdevelop their knowledge andskills within the cutting-edgeareas of ComputerScience. Accordingto myresearch andfindingsIhavefound that an MScin ComputerScience....

SOP - MSc Accounting and Finance [Advance Diploma Route]

I have chosen to study MSc Accounting and Finance [Advance Diploma Route] at BPP University. This course modules is designed to develop critical thinking and analytical skills, the further study is essential for a successful global accounting career. The course is ideal for starting a successful career through invaluable insights and practical knowledge which will be playing a vital role to achieve my future career objectives. BPP University offers some....

Personal Statement - MSc Planning and Development

I am M Ali and from Bangladesh. I am writing this application with great joy to study the course MSc Planning and Development at the Queen’s University Belfast. This course is designed to provide a broad knowledge of planning and professional skills and to use statistical analysis. More importantly, this course will teach me how they solve problems, and create new solutions for the built environment and understand the complexity of environmental mana....

PS - MSc Accounting and Finance [Advanced Diploma Route]

I am willing to study the MSc Accounting and Finance [Advanced Diploma Route] programme at BPP University. The course is ideal for starting a successful career through invaluable insights and practical knowledge which will be playing a vital role to achieve my future career goal. After completing my HSC & SSC in Science group, I completed my Bachelor of Arts and Masters in Da’wah and Islamic Studies. During my school days, I had taken part in ....

Personal Statement of Purpose - MSc Management

I am intending to study the MSc Management at University of Brighton to enhance my academic knowledge and create better and further opportunities for my career. By doing a lot of research on the University website for the course, I can confidently say that this course will satisfy my curiosity and hope and it will lead me to a career that I aim to develop in a sustainable way. In this MSc Management program at Brighton University, I will be able to do c....

Statement of Purpose - MBA

I am Md S Uddin,keen to study the MBA with work placement at York St John University London Campus to enhance my current academic attainments, extend my skills in Business and with professional skills and create better opportunities to design my career in the field. Following my Secondary and Higher Secondary education were science background and I studied my Bachelor and Master Degree in Daw’ah and Islamic Studies under the International Islamic ....

Personal Statement - MSc International Business

I have been doing extensive research since my last graduation to narrow-down my prospective course of study. After much deliberation, I have decided to pursue MSc International Business at University of Bedfordshire. The program provides its students with the knowledge and professional skills that go beyond the scope of standard management and I believe that this program will give the premise to me to advance into a profession with extraordinary potential.....

Statement of Purpose-MSc International Business

Following my Successful completion of the MSc International Accounting and Finance at London South Bank University, I have made a strategic decision to extend my academic knowledge and skills further with an MSc in International Business so that I can gain mastery in varied functions of business and organisations. My aim is to gain control over my efficiency and leave no gap in my accomplishments so that I can be a human asset for my employer or my own pro....

Statement of Purpose - MSc International Business

Upon finishing my recent study of MSc International Finance, while waiting for the final result, a thorough inspection in my accomplishments till now, I find myself narrowed to a one dimensional direction of accounting and finance. A transition and shift to UK’s dynamic environment from my home country Pakistan, I have observed the broader aspects of career directions and demands of global business organisations. The needs for rounded knowledge and s....

Statement of Purpose - DBA Course

I am very keen to follow Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) course at University of the Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD). While doing my Master in Management with Finance from BPP University after my MBA from University of West London, I became more attached to the management area of business and industry and planned my career in this arena. The DBA course will enable me to gain new horizon of knowledge in those areas and boost my career prospects as....

Statement of Purpose MSc Clinical Dermatology course

A medical graduate from the College of Medicine, University of Sulaimani, Iraq with few years of experience as a Dermatology Professional, I am driven to gain advanced level knowledge and skills in the field from scholastic institution and specialise in Clinical Dermatology with a master degree. After exploring my options and researching different study opportunities, I am keen to follow the MSc Clinical Dermatology course offered by Kings College London. ....

MBA - sample statement of Purpose

To master my business management knowledge and skills that I have gained from my recently completed Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) course, I aim to follow the Master of Business Administration course (MBA) and progress towards my career goals. After extensive search and research of course, universities and study destinations, I have decided to undertake the MBA programme offered by the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). At UWS, this MB....

LLM Commercial and Corporate Law - Sample Personal Statement

My name is T Ahmed. My nationality is Bangladeshi and I am 25 years old. I am intending to pursue the LLM Comparative Commercial Law at BPP University to to achieve a deeper understanding of the field of Comparative Commercial Law. I look forward to having the opportunity to study it to a higher level. Following my SSC & HSC, I have completed my Bachelor of Laws (Honours) from ASA University of Bangladesh in 2019. Then I admitted myself at Jagannath Un....

MBA with pre-master's

A recent graduate of Political Science, I have been in search of scopes for job opportunities in my home country and found very limited options let alone extreme competition in Bangladesh Job Market where unemployment rate is too high. The analysis has prompted me to re-think and plan realistically for further study options that can facilitate more and better career prospects. An evaluation of the current trends of the job market in Bangladesh, I have esta....

MSc Business with International Management with Advanced Practice

Today’s changing nature of global business and organisations that are evolving at fast pace to emancipate traditional management with business leaders who are versatile and pragmatic. Given the recent development that my home country India has seen in the last decade, it has become integral to co-ordinate and sustain the growth with skilled and professional human capital. This importance goes further with demands for skilled and educated women to put....

MBA (Master of Business Administration)

I am keen to pursue the Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme offered by the celebrated Bristol Business School of University of the West of England (UWE). As the MBA is recognised as the benchmark professional qualification in management, this rigorous and career-oriented MBA programme, once qualified will give the message to my employer that I can think strategically and beyond my immediate role. These programmes will undoubtedly help me g....

Following my recently completed Master of Business Studies under the National University of Bangladesh, I take great interest to study an MBA programme under the Northampton University, the ‘Gold’ ranked university by the Teaching Excellence Framework. I have made the decision after considering all aspects of my academic and career developments. In my Master of Business Studies, I have gathered one-dimensional knowledge mainly focused to man....

MSc Clinical Dermatology

Note: the example personal statement (statement of purpose) below is for guidelines only and to help you understand how to write one - do not copy any part of it. When applying to universities, write your own personal statement (statement of purpose) according to your profile for the course you are applying. Please check HERE for detailed guidelines on how to write a personal statement (statement of purpose). I am keen to follow the MSc Clinical Dermato....

DBA - Doctor of Business Administration

I am highly motivated to study the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programme to enhance my academic accomplishments and gain further personal and professional developments. The qualification would facilitate me to realise my career plan as a business management consultant and develop it to further height. I have recently completed MSc Management with Finance course - the study has provided me insights into various areas of management and busines....

Personal Statement for MBA course application

A recent graduate with a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Degree, the Master of Business Administration (MBA) course as my postgraduate study pathway is the reflection of my academic pursuance for greater depth of knowledge in the area. While reviewing my options for a master’s study between MSc and MBA, I have concluded that being a premier business and management qualification, an MBA could provide rounded knowledge while complementing my ....

Doctor of Business Administration - DBA

I am keen to follow the DBA programme offered by the University of the West of Scotland to gain further academic progression and enhance my academic heights to next level. This accomplishments along with my current qualifications would provide me the strength to realise my career plan as a consultant for business and organisations. From my research, I have found out that as the number of MBA holders continues to grow, the DBA qualification enables gradu....

MSc International Human Resource Management

I want to pursue my higher education at University of Bedfordshire for the MSc International Human Resource Management in November 2021 intake. I want to study this course to enhance my current academic credentials and prepare myself as a career ready graduate with required skills and knowledge for my future managerial role (HR & Admin ) at BEXIMCO Textile Limited , Bangladesh. I strongly believe that this course will meet the requirement with relevant....

MSc Finance and Business Management

My Enthusiasm knows no bound to apply for the MSc Finance and Business Management course at the University of Bedfordshire. While researching on my further study options in the UK, the course and its contents have caught my attention – the 3 in 1 combination of finance, business and management incorporated in one master degree is truly a perfect opportunity to specialise in 3 vital functional areas of business organisations. The course has been ....

MSc Computing Networking Programme

I am interested to follow the MSc Computing Networking programme at the University of Bedfordshire because this course will enhance my knowledge of computer networking technologies - through the use of real-world applications, I will gain an in-depth understanding of advanced and academic computing skills. I have studied BCS Certificate and Diploma level in computing followed by year 3 top up BSc in Computing under the University of Greenwich. In thes....

MBA Programme

The MBA Global Business is a premier masters qualification offered at Coventry University London – the qualification is a powerful demonstration of some of the most sought-after attributes in any executive: intelligence; innovation; and determination. It blends established expertise with the latest thinking of contemporary business and management to provide a real catalyst to develop career. In a fiercely competitive employment market, the MBA giv....

LLM Commercial Law

With the procession of globalisation internationally based and active industries continue to grow each year and marching together. In this climate of globalisation, commerce and trade exert some of the most powerful influences on human activity and commercial relationships reflect a constantly evolving world. The above aspects have brought good practice along with malpractice in business and organisations. The ingenuity of traders and the complexity of ....

ACCA programme

Developing countries like Bangladesh, my home country, we need Accountancy and Finance professionals equipped with Western and European qualifications accompanied by practically experienced social, cultural and economic activities practised there. There was a time, it had been almost impossible to gain access to these special qualifications by students in general. ACCA (The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) – the largest accountancy b....

BSc (Hons) Professional Accounting Course

Note: the example personal statement (statement of purpose) below is for guidelines only and to help you understand how to write one - do not copy any part of it. When applying to universities, write your own personal statement (statement of purpose) according to your profile for the course you are applying. Please check HERE for detailed guidelines on how to write a personal statement (statement of purpose). My aim is to become a ....

ACCA Course

I am motivated to study the ACCA course which predominantly focuses in accounting and finance with other key functional areas of business and organisation. The syllabus of the programme is modernised to address global issues virtually in all aspects of business. Being qualified with ACCA would equip me with complete knowledge and competences in professional capacity for accounting, finance, tax, audit, management, consultancy, marketing, human resource, co....

The ACCA Programme

I am an MA in the subject of English – English is a major international language and the language of corporate world. The language dominates the communications among business communities across the globe. The study of English itself does not have much merit in itself except for academic learning. The knowledge does not have much use apart from communication in the present global climate of business revolution. I have realised this after coming to ....

The ACCA Course

Though I have very strong academic achievements and qualifications, I have realised my attainments have enabled me extensive theoretical knowledge which requires transformation with professional skills and competences. Moreover, the theoretical parts of learning can be further explored with critical analysis techniques and tools. This findings in my skills shortage have prompted me to decide to study ACCA programme that offer professional edge with advance....

ACCA - Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Study

I am keen to pursue the ACCA programme because the programme is a comprehensive and intensive investigation into key areas in accounting and finance - it is both academically rigorous and closely in line with professional practice. Accounting has been defined as the measurement and disclosure of financial information that is used by managers, investors and others to make decisions about the allocation of resources within organisations. It is much more t....

MSc International Marketing Course

In today’s era of globalization, business functions are more independent and require specialist knowledge to sustain growth and remain competitive. General management with bit of knowledge in every function is no more effective and hence traditional management has shifted focuses on specialist knowledge and skills in individual units or single functions. Modern business organsiations now demand specialists in every department. I have learned this ....

ACCA Programmes

Today’s world of success is dominated by business and Accounting is often described as the 'language of business', it involves analysing and using financial information to understand and evaluate the financial position of an organisation. Accounting is really the language business speaks. Business communicates in dollars and pounds and accountants are an integral part of that communication. A professional accounting qualification is not ju....

MSc International Marketing programme

From my recent study MBA, I have learned that marketing marks the heart and soul of most business because the success of a business is directly impacted by marketers – from the analyses of markets and consumers, to the advertising and selling of products. Successful businesses like Virgin, McDonalds, KFC, Apple, Coca-Cola, they all have one thing in common – a successful, dynamic marketing team. In a world where social media and relationship....

MSc Computer Networking

I write to express my enthusiasm and interests in the MSc Computer Networking study opportunity and particularly why University of Bedfordshire is my first preference as an institute for my higher study. As because I completed BEng (Hons) Telecommunication and Computer Networks Engineering from London South Bank University and as because Computer Networking one of my favorite subjects in undergraduate, I am very passionate and wish to promote my career in ....

MBA International

Note: the example personal statement (statement of purpose) below is for guidelines only and to help you understand how to write one - do not copy any part of it. When applying to universities, write your own personal statement (statement of purpose) according to your profile for the course you are applying. Please check HERE for detailed guidelines on how to write a personal statement (statement of purpose). The world is changing, a....

LLB - the Bachelor of Laws (Hons) Course

My upbringing has honed my perception of society and people leading me to be acutely aware of social injustice, inequality, exploitation, discrimination, and religious fundamentalism, especially in a society such as the one I am a citizen of – Sri Lanka.  As I grew up I nurtured a desire to work through my life in establishing a society that would be free from these. As such, I have chosen to study law (LLB) and take training as a Lawyer/Ba....

BSc (Hons) Business Management Course

A devoted student of business discipline since my secondary school, I have recently completed a BTEC Level 3 Certificate in Business successfully. The qualification has perfectly set a platform for me to start my bachelor degree study in the area of business in the UK universities. I have taken considerations for options available for me at different institutions, and finally decided to study the BSc (Hons) Business and Management at the BPP University, th....

BSc (Hons) Business and Management

Ba (hons) business management programme (final year).

I have chosen to pursue the BA (Hons) Business Management degree course under the University of Sunderland London because this course has been developed not only to reflect the increasing international dimension of business and management, but also to provide a range of opportunities and experiences that will help develop my the intercultural skills necessary to operate effectively across national and cultural boundaries. The study would give me a true ins....

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) programme

The globally recognised ACCA qualification is a badge of quality and professionalism – it provides knowledge and skills at the highest professional standard. It is a broad-based qualification, focusing on the essential skills of accounting, business, finance and management - ACCA incorporates subjects, in fact, areas of accountancy, management, audit, tax, corporate law, finance and other related functions of business and organisation. I am intere....

PGD Strategic Leadership and Executive Management Programme

I intend to follow the Post Graduate Diploma in Strategic Leadership and Executive Management programme at the Westminster Kingsway College (WKC) which is in the forefront in providing this life-skill course. The programme has been designed on a combination of executive coaching and work based learning – this allow learners to define a set of objectives designed to have a real impact on their workplace and develop these into a work-based learning ....

MSc Project Management

The principle reason that motivated me to pursue the MSc Project Management course is the appeal and challenge Project Managers experience in delivering assignments they undertake in their career. The qualification, indeed, lead to very smart and modern careers for graduates who love challenges, creativity, leadership and success. As a graduate of Mathematics, I have cultivated these features in my student life. Now, for my master level of study, I would l....

MSc Medical Ultrasound Programme

I am keen to study the MSc Medical Ultrasound programme to develop my skills and work towards advanced and consultant-level practice. As a healthcare professional, the area has drawn my interest and I believe the study will enhance my competences to further level with newer domain of knowledge and skills. From the study, I aim to develop my understanding of the relevant ultrasound principles including current applications of ultrasound and imaging modal....

MSc Marketing and Business Management

As they say: without marketing there is no business; and both marketing and business must be management efficiently and effectively, I have decided to study a post-graduation qualification that combines both and carry on from my current qualification. I have found the MSc Marketing and Business Management fulfils my academic goals and would help achieving my career aspirations. In fact, today’s business world is constantly changing; technological ....

MSc Management programme

Note: the example personal statement (statement of purpose) below is for guidelines only and to help you understand how to write one - do not copy any part of it. When applying to universities, write your own personal statement (statement of purpose) according to your profile for the course you are applying. Please check HERE for detailed guidelines on how to write a personal statement (statement of purpose). I have chosen to study t....

MSc Management with Project Management

As a student, I have been always in search for the knowledge and skills that would put me the right direction with concurrent trends of global business and position me in strong career role that I enjoy with thorough and complete knowledge, skills and efficiency and thus be in demands with employers as a key player. With my BSc in Computer Science and MSc in Mathematics from India, I sought for business management knowledge from Europe to earn transfera....

MSc Management with Finance

A bachelor degree holder in the business administration from south Asia, I have recently accomplished a BSc (Hons) in Business Studies from the University of Ulster, United Kingdom. While these two qualifications from two different continents are at same academic level, the different learning set up and environment, education system have transformed my knowledge with newer perspectives and better insights. The study has, in fact, driven my academic pursuan....

MSc International Tourism and Hospitality Management

I have noticed that tourism and hospitality are closely-related areas of an economic and social phenomenon that have developed a critical role in the world economy. The industry has become one of the major players in international commerce, and represents at the same time one of the main income sources for many developing countries with economic and employment benefits. The profession is not only profit oriented but also interesting and full of colourful f....

MSc International Marketing

I take great inspiration from my recently attained higher study programme, MBA International under Anglia Ruskin University to further expand my knowledge in the branches of business management and gain all-round efficiency. One of the major areas that has been highlights of global business success in most recent time is International Marketing and this was not served in the menu of my MBA syllabus. To fulfil my academic aspiration with complete satisfacti....

MSc International Business Programme

I am keen to follow the MSc International Business Programme at University of Ulster London to fulfil my academic vision of gaining the ultimate contemporary knowledge and skills in the area and to achieve my career goal and its subsequent development in international arena. Earlier I had studied an MBA via BTEC Advanced Professional Diploma in Management Studies (APDMS).  I was awarded 60 APL credits for the APDMS by New Bucks University towards t....

MSc International Business

In the era of “Information & Technology”, the world has truly provided a wonderful platform for every person to chase their own dream and turn them into reality. As for me, my dream is to study MSc International Business at University of Bedfordshire. I set my heart on developing my current academic achievement under University of Bedfordshire, because I will be constantly exposed to skills and ideas that will enable me to develop into a managemen....

MSc International Business Management

Business success requires a breadth of knowledge and abilities of efficient management to survive in fierce global competition. The economic backbone of contemporary world is backed by business and creative management that can administer and conducts operations with strategic action in different functions. Since my academic interests and career visions evolve in the area, I have made decision to study the MSc International Business Management programme wit....

I have chosen to study MSc Finance and Business Management programme because I believe from the study I will develop an in-depth understanding of finance and its management in the success of business. I will learn to apply latest thinking on finance and management to the analysis of the key business problems being experienced by the world's major businesses and to develop the research skills necessary to tackle financial and business management problem....

MSc Finance and Accounting

It is my most recent study of BA Honours in International Management that has given me a good chance to assess my learning needs with specific needs and I have identified what areas to focus more and specialise on in today’s global environment of economic challenge. After careful thought and research, I have finally synchronised my career targets with my academic aims and made my decision to follow the MSc Accounting and Finance programme. The two....

MSc Applied Finance

Note: the example personal statement (statement of purpose) below is for guidelines only and to help you understand how to write one - do not copy any part of it. When applying to universities, write your own personal statement (statement of purpose) according to your profile for the course you are applying. Please check HERE for detailed guidelines on how to write a personal statement (statement of purpose). I have chosen to study MSc Applied Finance p....

MSc Applied Finance Programme

I have chosen to study MSc Applied Finance programme because I believe from the study I will develop an in-depth understanding of finance to apply latest thinking on finance and management to the analysis of the key problems being experienced by the world's major businesses and to develop the research skills necessary to tackle financial and business management problems and issues. Unlike my current qualification MBA, I will have the opportunity to ....

MSc Accounting and Finance

Note: the example personal statement (statement of purpose) below is for guidelines only and to help you understand how to write one - do not copy any part of it. When applying to universities, write your own personal statement (statement of purpose) according to your profile for the course you are applying. Please check HERE for detailed guidelines on how to write a personal statement (statement of purpose). I have chosen to study MSc Ac....

Today's business environment is continuously changing and the management is facing diverse challenges ranging from the financial constraints of the current global economy, to the demand for raw materials and the need to focus on sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Future managers must be prepared with knowledge and skills that addresses international business issues in contemporary time and reflects on the actions and needs for capabili....

MBA in IT Management

I have chosen to study the MBA (Information Technology Management) programme under the University of Bedfordshire because this programme is designed to help students meet the challenges that managers are facing in the global business environment in the IT industry- this would be an ideal opportunity to enhance my academic knowledge, develop professional experience and prepare for career progressions. From extensive research on the course, syllabus, cont....

MA International Human Resource Management

My choice of MA International Human Resource Management course as my higher study programme is not a selection at spur of the moment; it is a reflection of my long preparation since I completed my Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree under Eastern University, Bangladesh. In fact, in my BBA study, my major was Human Resource Management and I thoroughly enjoyed strategic human resource management, industrial relations, organisation change and ....

MA in International Development

I am M Hasan from Bangladesh. I am writing this statement with great joy to study the course MA International Development at the University of East Anglia (UEA). This course is designed to provide a broad knowledge of moral, practical, and political challenges that are faced by the world today. More importantly, this course will teach me how the world politics, morals, gender equality, climate change and access to education shapes the economy. If I get the....

LLM International Human Rights Law

I  have  made  my  mind  to  study  LLM International Human Rights Law at University of Bedfordshire (UoB). LLM Human Rights Law is a unique programme designed  to enable students to progress to become human rights practitioners and specialists in this dynamic area of law.  This  course  would  allow  me  to  gain  academic  progress sion  since  it  is&n....

Bachelor of Laws (Hons)

Lawyers play different roles in eradicating corruption, uplifting human rights and establishing the rule of law. Hence, I believe that training as a Lawyer would certainly give me the best opportunity to stand up against all the wrongs in the society and that would be the best way to serve the people of my country. For this, the first step I like to take is to study the LLB (Honours) programme. The LLB is the quickest and most common route to becoming a....

HND Business Management

I am keen to study the HND Business Management at the highly esteemed Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College as part of my higher education plan and reach to my career goals. This course under the well-known awarding body Edexcel has been designed to prepare students with contemporary business management knowledge to match the ever changing global business and organisations and their effective management. The course structure is planned to dev....

Extended Masters in Management

I am keen to follow the Extended Masters offered by the BPP University, UK’s only university exclusively dedicated for business and the professions. As this 2 year programme is designed with a Pre-Masters Diploma in Business Management in the 1st year and then an MSc in the 2nd year – the programme aims to prepare students with pre knowledge for the chosen field of MSc at the university including MSc Management, MSc Management with Finance, ....

Degree Foundation Programme

Note: the example personal statement (statement of purpose) below is for guidelines only and to help you understand how to write one - do not copy any part of it. When applying to universities, write your own personal statement (statement of purpose) according to your profile for the course you are applying. Please check HERE for detailed guidelines on how to write a personal statement (statement of purpose). I am eager to follow the Degr....

BSc (Hons) Nursing

I want to study nursing because I believe it will be the start of a long and successful career in working in the medical field. My goal is to work in operating theatres. I want to develop a set of skills which will stay with me for the rest of my life and kick start a career doing something I love. In fact, I would like to study nursing because I feel it will lead me directly to one of the most emotionally fulfilling careers available, as well as giving....

BSc (Hons) International Business Management

I am pleased to apply for the BSc (Hons) International Business Management since I have found the programme crossing my academic progression route. I have found the programme offered by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) very interesting in fulfilling my academic and career goal. The course offered by ARU covers all the major functional areas of business and organisation from finance and marketing to human resource management and information management; it ....

BSc (Hons) Business Management

The time I realised the employment market and the economic backbone of the world is dominated by business degree holders, I had already completed my BA (Pass) course in general discipline. In particular, my work role at Inspire System Limited as Account Executive has inspired my ambition to gain qualification in business related area significantly. Driven by my dream, I applied to the UK Government College, Westminster Kingsway College to study BTEC Lev....

BSc (Hons) in Business and Tourism

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Education Personal Statement Examples

personal statement for access to higher education

What is an education personal statement?

Writing a personal statement for education is a chance to sell yourself to the admissions tutors and show them why you would make a good education candidate. It’s a place to describe your skills and strengths, as well as your career plans.

You are allowed up to 4,000 characters to explain why you are applying for an education degree, so you need to make sure your statement is as polished as possible to stand out from the crowd.

How do I write a good education personal statement?

Good education personal statements always use evidence to support their claims. You need to convince admissions tutors that you’re a good match for the programme, so if you claim to be committed or inquisitive, then use examples from your life to back it up.

To write a successful education personal statement you need to start early, brainstorm some ideas, and then begin your first draft.

This will then need to be carefully revised and edited before asking family and friends for feedback. Incorporate their comments and suggestions, and see how it is improved before asking them to look at it again.

Read through our education personal statement examples above to get an idea of what a good education statement entails.

Make sure you proofread your statement for grammar and spelling before sending it off, and if you feel you need a little extra help, take a look at our personal statement editing services .

What should I include in my education personal statement?

Many students choose to start their statement by picking a specific aspect of education and explaining why they enjoy it, e.g. developmental psychology, equality and diversity, etc.

Admissions tutors want candidates that are as passionate about the subject as they are.

As well as your motivations for studying education, think about your hobbies and extracurricular activities too. What skills have you learned from these and how will these help you in your education degree?

Talk about any work experience placements you have completed, e.g. shadowing a teacher or TA. What did you take away from this experience? Do you feel you have all the necessary personal traits and qualities that make a good sociology student?

Your wider reading is also important, so it's worth mentioning anything you've read recently that you found interesting and why. Generally, admissions tutors like students who express their views and opinions, and can back them up with evidence.

For more help and advice on what to write in your education personal statement, please see:

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How to structure the personal statement?

Note : personal statement is a different to SOP/research statement. Some universities require this, while the others don't.

Unlike the research statement (SOP), the personal statement fragments into a lot of stories. For example, the structure of the SOP simply has four important points that your need to present well: what I have done, why I'm doing now, what I want to do in the future, and how the department suits me ( JeffE, 2012 ). And at each point you only have one story to tell (at least for someone like me). But I don't know how to structure the personal statement. There are a lot of suggestions to brainstorm the ideas for it, such as:

  • How you have overcome barriers to access higher education
  • How you have come to understand the barriers faced by others
  • Evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education
Evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality
  • Evidence of your leadership among such groups
And more importantly, how your personal background and experiences inform your decision to pursue a graduate degree.

Q : I have stories for those. The point is, I don't know how to structure them in an unified completed statement . They are just different sides of mine, and the connections between them are weak. I think that numbering them is even better than just splitting them in paragraph. I don't know if it's OK or not.

Also, as this statement is used for knowing me as much as possible, should I just tell them all the stories I have? And is there any different between this statement and the SOP for undergraduate applications?

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4 Answers 4

You mentioned in a comment to an older question that you were planning to apply at UC Berkeley. Hence, @AnonymousMathematician probably links to the particular situation your questions results from; although at schools where you have a like split between personal statement and SOP this might be similar.

It seems that this part of the application is meant to put a deserving candidate who faced obstacles (gender, race, financial, ...) but persevered on equal footing with those who didn't face such difficulties. In addition to influencing whether or not you might be admitted, the description mentions that your statement will be considered when fellowships are allocated.

It's a common concern in the U.S., but might not be something you, as a foreigner, are used to. In essence, though, in your country people are dealing with comparable challenges (an Indian friend who, despite being poor, found himself at a top IT and surrounded by very wealthy classmates certainly did, say). If you are part of any minority or group facing occasional hostility in your country, if you are gay in a country where this is still a problem, if you were a woman in a country still placing bounds on women's progress, if you had to work part-time to support yourself (or were supported by poor parents and felt guilty about it), etc. - this belongs into your personal statement; and if you assumed a leadership role, for yourself or others, in such matters, this would be particularly useful.

Now, none of this might apply. Note though that the description on the web page linked mentions that "you can repeat information about experiences in your research statement." So in this case do that, and add a bit about your background (e.g., parents' job or a mentor influenced your career choice; when taking class X, I realized that this is what I liked). In your particular case, you mention in another old question that you participated at a math Olympics, while being unnecessarily humble about not winning a medal. That strikes me as a good story to tell. I'd focus on the related travel and time in a foreign country (different food, habits, ....), and how meeting all those attending from over the world was fascinating. If you made a friend from another country at the Olympics, good story too.

Your personal statement or statement of purpose has a huge impact on your chances of securing a place at the university of your choice. The best way to structure it is to break it down as follows:

1) The Hook - this is the all-important first paragraph that grabs the admission committee members’ attention and makes you stand out from the rest. Don't be afraid to get creative with your writing here, you need to construct a narrative that stands out.

2) Are you telling a story? Admissions officers are human too! Don't relay your life story in a dull rote fashion.You need to communicate how you have got to where you are today and where you are going and why!

3) Support your story with data and facts - back up your narrative with actual data to support your claims. be careful not to go overboard and make the statement a list of facts and figures only.

4) Avoid the use of clichés - pretty straight forward, instead of a lame clichés, give an example of something you have actually done and back it up with hard facts.

5) Tailor your admission essay to the university you are applying for - every college is different and every course is different so make sure you do not just talk about how great you are, but what is great about the institution you are applying for.

6) Appropriate language and tone - You are not drafting the constitution or bill of rights, strike a balance between making sure your application is taken seriously and communicating a little of your personality.

7) Be Truthful - avoid the temptation to completely make things up.

8) Are you convincing - ask yourself if this is really the course you want to study and the place you want to study it? If you cannot convince yourself, then you will not stand much chance with an admissions committee.

9) Is your statement logical and coherent? The statement should tell you personal story. There is no set format, but be methodical as you progress though your key points, building a portrait of yourself.

10) Is the language perfect? Speak in plain English and always proofread your finished piece. Better yet, have a professional proofreading service give your statement the once over.

This answer is based on an awesome guide to writing a killer Statement of Purpose from Vappingo.com. There is also a free handy checklist to download.

Heath Dacre's user avatar

  • Personal statement and statement of purpose are different. Also, while your answer provides some useful tips in general, it does not answer the particular question. –  justauser Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 11:43

Edit: I misread the question and interpreted it as being about including personal aspects in the usual statement of purpose, rather than writing a separate personal statement. Berkeley is unusual among universities in having standardized university-wide on two essays for graduate admissions, a traditional statement of purpose and also a personal statement , which often deals with diversity and inclusion issues. The advice I give below is aimed at other universities with a single statement of purpose, while Berkeley may be looking for something different in a personal statement.

Don't worry about including all these things in your statement. You don't need them all, and trying to cram them all in will very likely lead to a worse statement. The goal is to write something coherent and well organized, rather than a brain dump of everything that might be relevant.

Overcoming barriers is worth mentioning, but it should not be the focus of your statement. The purpose is just to put your accomplishments in the context of the opportunities available to you, so the admissions committee can judge your potential even if you haven't had the same opportunities as other applicants.

Academic service regarding equitable access could also be worth mentioning, but in most cases it will be at best a very minor factor. It could in principle end up as a tie breaker between two candidates, but it's not going to overcome any weaknesses in your application. Mention it if you have something impressive to say, but don't give it a disproportionate amount of space.

Understanding the barriers faced by others is generally not relevant. It's a commendable personal trait, but not one of the admissions criteria for graduate school.

This is in an entirely different category from the other topics you mention. The motivation for and impact (potential or past) of your research are of real importance, and you certainly need to make this clear in your statement of purpose if you have something noteworthy to say.

If you are talking about telling autobiographical stories to explain how you arrived at this point, it's almost never a good idea. Discussing your academic experiences in college is worthwhile. For example, you might discuss what you learned from different projects (summer research, senior thesis, etc.) and how your plans have taken that into account. Talking about high school is generally a bad idea: it looks bad if after college the most relevant things you can think of to discuss are from high school. Don't even bother mentioning anything earlier. Nobody cares at all who inspired you as a child or what your childhood dreams or accomplishments were.

And is there any different between this statement and the SOP for undergraduate applications?

Yes, it's almost completely different, which means advice for undergraduate application essays is at best useless and at worst actively harmful for graduate applications. At least in the U.S., undergraduate admission often takes into account what graduate admissions committees would consider to be ridiculous fluff (e.g., Caltech asks applicants about "an unusual way in which you have fun"). Your statement of purpose for graduate school should ideally not contain any fluff, and if it includes more than a tiny amount then it will hurt your chances.

Anonymous Mathematician's user avatar

  • Hmmm, it's weird that you are not recommend to use the points I list (not saying that you're wrong). Those points are taken from the Berkeley's online application. –  Ooker Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 8:59
  • Do you suggest that I should put the part of changing the field in here instead in the SOP/research statement? You once said that it should be in the SOP in Should I explain change of major in my statement of purpose? . –  Ooker Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 9:03
  • And what is the difference between overcoming barriers and showing my accomplishments in the context of the opportunities available to me? –  Ooker Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 10:44
  • @Ooker: Sorry, I had interpreted "personal statement" as another term for "statement of purpose". (I've edited to clarify.) Personal statements along the lines of what the Berkeley administration asks for are not a standard part of all graduate applications. I wouldn't worry too much about the exact format or organization, but I don't have direct experience with this myself. –  Anonymous Mathematician Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 15:33

Content and intention comes first. Structure follows.

Use your Personal Statement to answer the questions:

Who are you? (what makes you unique? different? distinct? unusual?) What do you want? (what motivates you? what are your goals or priorities?) What do you have to contribute? (to a community of scholars? to a research team or supervisor?)

First, write an essay that answer these questions. Make it as long as you want, without any structure.

Then read it aloud to a close friend, partner, or colleague. After you read it, complete this sentence:

"What I'm really trying to say is..."

...and have that person write down what you say.

Then read the transcript of what you said. Look for some obvious signs of structure. Clarify that structure. Rewrite the content of the transcript using the clarified structure.

That is your Personal Statement.

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personal statement for access to higher education

UCAS to replace personal statement essay with three questions to help disadvantaged people

UCAS surveyed potential applicants about to start their personal statement and found more than three-quarters prefer the new three-question format.

By Claire Gilbody Dickerson, news reporter

Thursday 18 July 2024 03:37, UK

personal statement for access to higher education

Students applying for university through UCAS will be required to answer three questions under new plans to help support people from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Under the current system, prospective students have been filling out a free-response essay for their personal statement, which can be up to 4,000 characters long.

But amid concerns the task helps advantaged people who can get support, the essay will, as of September 2025, be replaced with three mandatory questions.

The questions are:

• Why do you want to study this course or subject?

• How have your qualifications and studies helped you to prepare for this course or subject?

• What else have you done to prepare outside of education, and why are these experiences helpful?

More on Higher Education

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Minister does not rule out some universities may close over funding crisis

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Labour's Bridget Phillipson criticised for refusing to rule out tuition-fee hike

File photo dated 24/04/2018 of a general view of St Salvator's Hall at the University of St Andrews. The University of St Andrews has taken the top spot in a national league table, beating Oxford and Cambridge. St Andrews has been placed higher than the elite Oxbridge institutions for only the second time in the 30-year history of The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide. The rankings show that Oxford fell from first to second place with Cambridge remaining in third place. Issue date

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Students seeking to start university in 2026 will be the first to experience the reformed application form, which will allow for the same amount of writing as the essay.

The move comes as UCAS data suggests the gap in university application rates between the most and least advantaged students has widened in the last year.

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Data shows the application rate from the most disadvantaged backgrounds has fallen slightly to 25.4% in England, while the application rate for the most advantaged has marginally increased to 60.7%.

UCAS surveyed potential applicants about to start their personal statement, and found more than three-quarters prefer the new three-question format.

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personal statement for access to higher education

Previous UCAS research found 79% of students felt that the process of writing the personal statement was difficult to complete without support.

Jo Saxton, chief executive at UCAS, said: "The changes to the personal statement, along with our recent fee waiver for students in receipt of free school meals, are all part of UCAS's contribution to the sector-wide effort to ensure more people from disadvantaged backgrounds can benefit from the life-changing opportunity of higher education."

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  • Career Advice

What Is Your Philosophy of Higher Education?

By  Elizabeth A. Lehfeldt

You have / 5 articles left. Sign up for a free account or log in.

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At colleges and universities, we commonly ask candidates who are seeking faculty positions to provide a statement of their teaching philosophy. But when people apply for administrative posts in the academy, do we ask them to give a statement of their philosophy of higher education?

We ask about "leadership styles" and why they want the job. But I don't think those questions are the same as asking about someone's philosophy of higher education. Leadership styles matter -- immensely -- but they are more about communication and management. And presumably, an individual wants the job because they want to accomplish particular things, are drawn to particular challenges and so on.

I doubt that many administrators -- myself included -- have been asked or have asked ourselves the question about our philosophy of higher education. Yet, arguably, that philosophy should be the driving force behind our decisions, our projects, our strategic plans and, yes, our leadership styles. And I suspect that many of us have an implicit higher education philosophy. We could track our individual decisions and projects, view them collectively, and deduce an underlying ethos that unites those choices and endeavors.

But that's not enough. We should engage in the explicit, deliberate and self-conscious work of identifying that philosophy. If left unarticulated, we might happily stumble into one and implicitly and somewhat accidentally live into it. But by deliberately working on crafting one, we can give voice to our intentions and guiding principles.

In fact, if we were smart, this is where every annoying, poor-use-of-my-time presemester retreat, orientation or workshop for new administrators would begin. Because without such a philosophy, we lack that grounding. Without it, we risk careening from one project to another with nothing to focus our decisions and our work.

In contrast, with one, we have a measure against which to make choices about what our next project ought to be, what direction we ought to take, what our answer to certain questions should be. In other words, we need something along the lines of "I should pursue this project/say yes to this request/move my unit in this direction because it is consistent with my broader philosophy." Or the reverse: "Even though this is an interesting and perhaps even worthwhile program, I have finite amounts of time and energy, and this doesn't further my core philosophy. I'm going to focus my efforts on the things that do."

A philosophy of higher ed can also be a powerful tool for grounding us in the midst of tense situations or upheaval. When I find myself mired in faculty politics, managing a student complaint or handling a crisis in the workplace, I try to remind myself of what animates my work and why I do this. As you’ll see below, mine is always and ever about the students. It’s easier to transcend the problems described above when I remember this.

Make no mistake, though. A philosophy is not the same thing as a goal. Student retention is a goal. But what is the philosophy that undergirds that goal? Better mental health services for students is a goal. But what is the philosophy from which that goal flows?

All well and good, you say, but how do I come up with one? Here are a few prompts to move you in the direction of drafting your philosophy of higher ed.

  • What drew you to higher education to begin with?
  • What makes you want to do your job well?
  • Who among your colleagues inspires you and why?
  • If you could wave your magic wand and improve one thing about higher education, what would it be?
  • What are higher education’s greatest strengths?
  • What are higher education's greatest challenges?
  • What does it look and feel like when you are doing your most satisfying work?

Once you've answered those questions, see what jumps out at you. Do certain themes or words seem to repeat themselves? Do you get a sense of where your enthusiasm lies? Does a purpose or direction emerge from your responses?

Now try to capture those observations in a statement that embodies your vision of higher education and why you've chosen to be part of this enterprise. Ideally, your philosophy should be fairly succinct. It should be that point of clarity amid the quotidian demands of the job. And if you find it hard to craft one, that's revealing, too. Why can't you? Is your current position not a good fit for your aspirations? Are there obstacles in your current role that make it difficult to honor the philosophy that guides you?

At the end of the day, a philosophy of higher education should be that thing that centers you and gives you purpose. When you're being crushed by an avalanche of emails, you're trying to meet too many deadlines all at once or your spirits are flagging, it should be the reminder of why you do what you do.

Here’s a first draft of mine: “Higher education is a transformative social good. As a college-level administrator, I strive to approach students with empathy and transparency and to serve them in ways that foster their intellectual growth, support their personal development and challenge them to expand their horizons.”

So what's yours?

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Ucas personal statement reforms ‘fail to level playing field’

Experts say long awaited overhaul is welcome but questions-based approach still leaves some students at more of an advantage.

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“Overdue” changes to Ucas’ personal statement should be welcomed but much more needs to be done to truly “level the playing field” in UK university admissions, according to experts.

The 4,000 character-long statement that allows applicants to demonstrate their skills and experience outside of their formal grades is likely to be  replaced by a series of six structured questions  that focus on areas such as the motivation and preparedness for the course and extenuating circumstances.

Ucas – which has launched a consultation on the proposals – has said the change will create a more “supportive framework” compared to the old system, which was widely seen as  favouring more affluent applicants .

“It’s great that Ucas has finally agreed that the personal statement needs an overhaul, but it’s a pity a little more thought wasn’t put into the proposed replacement questions,” said Steve Jones, professor of higher education at the University of Manchester , who added that he felt there were too many questions and they overlapped too much.

Harriet Dunbar-Morris, dean of learning and teaching at the University of Portsmouth , agreed that “some of the questions cover the same thing from different angles, namely how prepared applicants are, but from different experiences they have had”.

Overall, she said that introducing questions should help applicants structure their answers, which would be helpful for admissions teams when assessing if an applicant had understood what the university offers and whether they are prepared for it.

However, Dr Dunbar-Morris said, she was still concerned that the changes would merely change the structure, as opposed to levelling the playing field, as “some students are able to get more help to better answer the structured questions in the same way as some students were able to get more help to write the original personal statement”.

A proposed question about preferred learning styles has attracted criticism, given its association with research that sought to split students into four different learning groups. Dr Dunbar-Morris said this had long been a “debunked term” and “learning preferences” would be a better way of reflecting the variety of ways universities teach – and what they can offer a student.

Professor Jones has  written  that he understands the intention of this question was more to focus on current debates around hybrid learning, contact hours and continuous assessment.

His colleague at Manchester, Paul Smith, a lecturer in education, said such “potential misunderstandings” could cause confusion in admissions teams and it could take several cycles before it is clear how different interpretations of the questions may influence the process.

Another uncertainty, according to Dr Smith, concerned how Ucas may respond to the possibility that more applicants will use artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT to prepare their answers.

Professor Jones said this was “another reason to move away from text-based application narratives, because it’s another way to game the system”.

“Now is the perfect time for Ucas to think afresh about what exactly universities should look for in their applicants,” he added.

“The process can’t continue to be about high-value work experiences and cultural capital indicators because we know how unevenly distributed those things are.”

Dr Dunbar-Morris added she would like to see Ucas respond to questions from the sector over whether applicants will ever be able to write a tailored personal statement for each of the institutions and/or courses they apply to.

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New personal statement to help level the playing field for disadvantaged students

News and insights.

  • Press office
  • UCAS' responses to consultations
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The new approach will see a move away from a free text box, with students asked to respond to three structured questions instead.

This is the second in a series of initiatives designed to address concerns that progress on encouraging disadvantaged students to apply for university has started to stall from Dr Jo Saxton, the new CEO of UCAS. It follows the decision last month to waive the application fee for free school meal students.

The three new questions will ensure students from all backgrounds better understand the key information universities and colleges want to know about them when making admissions decisions.

Previous UCAS research found 89% of students felt that the purpose of the personal statement is extremely clear or clear but 79% reported that the process of writing the statement was difficult to complete without support. UCAS surveyed potential applicants about to start their personal statement, and found more than three quarters prefer the three-question format. Over 80% said they found the three questions "extremely easy" or "somewhat easy" to understand.

The new structure will also improve the capture of information that universities and colleges tell UCAS is of most value when admissions teams are differentiating between applications.

The three questions were chosen following extensive research, testing and validation with students, teachers and advisers, and universities and colleges:

  • Why do you want to study this course or subject?  This is an applicant’s opportunity to showcase their passion for and knowledge of their chosen subject, to demonstrate to universities and colleges why they are a good fit, and to outline any future ambitions.  
  • How have your qualifications and studies helped you to prepare for this course or subject?   In this section applicants can describe relevant or transferable skills they’ve gained in education, and demonstrate their understanding of how these will help them succeed in their chosen course or subject area.  
  • What else have you done to prepare outside of education, and why are these experiences helpful?  Here applicants can reflect on their personal experiences, and any other activities they have undertaken outside their education to further demonstrate their suitability for the course.  

The new format will be introduced in September 2025 for students applying for 2026 entry. 

The changes announced today come as UCAS releases new data which shows that the gap in application rate between the most and least disadvantaged students remains stubbornly persistent. Using a range of measures across the UK, the 2024 figures from the UCAS 30 June deadline show:

  • In England, the application rate from the most disadvantaged backgrounds (TUNDRA quintile 1) has slightly declined to 25.4% (-0.4 percentage points) whereas the application rate for the most advantaged (TUNDRA quintile 5) has marginally increased (+0.1 pp) to 60.7%.
  • In Wales, the application rate of those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds (WIMD2019 quintile 1) has decreased to 20.7% (-1.3pp), whilst the application rate for the most advantaged (WIMD2019 quintile 5) also decreased to 49.7% (-2.6pp).
  • In Northern Ireland, the application rate from the most disadvantaged backgrounds (NIMDM2017 quintile 1) slightly declined to 33.3% (down 0.6pp) whereas the application rate for the most advantaged (WIMD2019 quintile 5) very slightly increased to 66.6% (+0.1pp).
  • In Scotland, the application rate of those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds (SIMD2020 quintile 1) has increased to 20.7% (+0.8pp), while the application rate for the most advantaged (SIMD2020 quintile 5) also increased to 50.2% (+1.1pp). However, UCAS data does not capture the full range of higher education provision in Scotland.

Overall, 321,410 UK 18-year-olds have applied to university or college up from 319,570 in 2023 (0.6%), with 91% holding an offer compared to 89% last year.

Dr Jo Saxton, Chief Executive at UCAS, said : “My aim at UCAS is to make sure that the doors of opportunity stay open for as many students as possible so that they can benefit from a university education, and find the right course that they will succeed in. Today’s figures show that whilst positive progress has been made, there is still much to do. The changes to the personal statement, along with our recent fee waiver for students in receipt of free school meals, are all part of UCAS’ contribution to the sector-wide effort to ensure more people from disadvantaged backgrounds can benefit from the life-changing opportunity of higher education.

“During my time in schools, I saw first-hand how the personal statement can help students really clarify and articulate their ambition, but also how challenging it can be for those with less support. The new approach, with guided questions aims to give greater confidence to those students, as well as their teachers when advising on how to secure their dream course.” 

When asked about the personal statement reform:

Abhishek Saha, aged 21, from Oxford, said : “It is, of course, a daunting task for every student to summarise your life experiences in 4,000 characters, especially when there is often not much guidance. However, the introduction of guided questions will undoubtedly support students, giving them more clarity and direction in what to write.”

Millie Gallimore, aged 18, from Manchester, said : “I believe it will relieve many students of the stress and anxiety previous years have had when planning their personal statement, and that applying to university will become much more accessible for those with less support.” 

Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter, said : “This welcome reform strikes the right balance between a more structured approach to deter fabrication, while not limiting the opportunity for applicants to personalise their statement. I believe it is a significant step in making the university admissions system a little bit fairer for all applicants.”

Sally Rutterford, Head of Admissions and Deputy Director at Cardiff University, said : “[The changes] will support applicants by assisting them in organising their thoughts and the information that they need to provide to us when considering their application. The personal statement can cause an element of anxiety particularly for those who do not have the support of someone who has been through the process; the new structure helps to address this by providing a framework to direct to the information required whilst still providing opportunity to provide responses that are unique to each individual and give opportunity for applicants to tell us about themselves.”

Andrew Parkin, Principal at St Dominic’s Sixth Form College, said : “The changes… are important revisions that will facilitate accessibility and equality of opportunity. Each section of the personal statement, being carefully scaffolded for all candidates, will provide HE providers with the most useful information which demonstrates an individual has considered their options and is confident that their chosen course is right for them. This ultimately is a ‘win win’ for all concerned and I am sure will be warmly received by future generations of HE applicants.”

View the 2024 cycle applicant figures – 30 June deadline  

UCAS Press Office

07880 488 795

[email protected]  (monitored regularly)

@ucas_corporate

Notes for editors 

Personal statement reform

All three questions will be mandatory for applicants. The character count will be 4,000 characters in total, so that students can split flexibly across their three sections. This means that new, reformed personal statements will continue to be the same length as those in previous admissions cycles. Find out more about the changes here . 

30 June deadline data

  • Data published today is 30 June deadline data. 30 June is UCAS’ final date to apply to up to five courses at the same time. All applications sent to UCAS by 18:00 BST (UK time) on 30 June are sent on to the chosen universities or colleges. 
  • Applications received after 30 June are automatically be entered into Clearing. Clearing matches applicants to any higher education courses that are yet to be filled. It is available to anyone who has made a UCAS undergraduate application and who is not holding any offers. 

Quintile 1 (most disadvantaged) applicant numbers across the UK

UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is an independent charity, and the UK's shared admissions service for higher education.

UCAS’ services support young people making post-18 choices, as well as mature learners, by providing information, advice, and guidance to inspire and facilitate educational progression to university, college, or an apprenticeship.

UCAS manages almost three million applications, from around 700,000 people each year, for full-time undergraduate courses at over 380 universities and colleges across the UK.

UCAS is committed to delivering a first-class service to all our beneficiaries — they're at the heart of everything we do.

Related news

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