Writing Personal Statements
For students applying to graduate or professional school
Virginia Tech students are welcome to seek advising through Career and Professional Development for review and discussion of personal statements, also called essays or statements of purpose, that may be required for application to graduate or professional school programs.
Note that for each specific school and program to which you apply, instructions will be given regarding the topics and length of your statement. Allow sufficient time to write drafts, set them aside, re-read them with fresh eyes, review and revise, and obtain feedback, before finalizing. As you make revisions, it's easy to accidently leave in or leave out words in error. Proofread, proofread, and proofread again! Be scrupulous about grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Simple, avoidable mistakes can weaken or derail your application. Don't rely on spellcheck. You may be applying to multiple schools and writing a similar statement for each, with careful customization for each. Don't make the mistake of sending a statement to XYZ school that says you really want to attend LMN school; that's an error that can strike you from being considered.
Remember that human beings are reading your statement, and they're reading many. Avoid gimmicks. Do sound like a focused adult with realistic goals and expectations, and show that you have done your research on the career field you are pursuing and the school you wish to attend. Do advocate for yourself. In your statement, there is no need for you to apologize for something you don't have in your background, or something you perceive as a weakness. If you have a passion for a field or topic, do share and explain that passion!
Some offsite resources to consult:
- Writing the Statement of Purpose
- Graduate School Essays
[Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Center for Communication Practices]
- Writing Your Graduate School Personal Statement
Includes 10 DOs and 10 DON'Ts.
- Definition of a Personal Statement
[Worcester Polytechnic Institute]
- Writing the Personal Statement
[Purdue University, Online Writing Lab]
- Personal Statement
- Graduate School Statement
[University of California at Berkeley]