Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose? Learn the Difference

Personal statement or statement of purpose

Graduate school applications require you to write a compelling personal statement. This statement can be a statement of purpose and a personal statement or both. What exactly are the differences between these two types of essays?

Across this article, we’ll look at the differences and similarities between a graduate school statement of purpose and a personal statement. Additionally, we’ll look at how to produce an essay that’ll land you a place at grad school.

How do Personal Statements and Statements of Purpose differ?

To begin, what is the key difference between a statement of purpose and a personal statement for graduate school?

The short answer is that a statement of purpose describes what you want to achieve, and a personal statement describes you. Regardless of the program, you’re applying to; every essay should be tailored to meet the needs of you and the program.

The statement of purpose aims to demonstrate your academic background, career goals, research interests, and fit with the program. Conversely, the personal statement concentrates on the motivation for pursuing the program and any significant accomplishments and challenges you’ve encountered so far.

Although there are major differences between the two, both statements have the same goal: to convince the admissions committee that you are a good fit for the program you are applying to.

Which should you write? Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement?

Which of the two statements of purpose will you have to write for grad school applications now that you know the main difference between them?

This depends on the form of essays your school requires and according to how it defines them.

Some colleges clearly differentiate the two essays and require two separate admissions essays, while other schools don’t make much of a distinction between the personal statement and statement of purpose. Several graduate programs interchangeably use the two terms!

While other graduate schools might combine the qualities from both statements into one comprehensive statement, some programs require an essay that combines the personal statement and purpose: applicants will talk about their academic and professional goals and any personal attributes that influence their writing.

Most graduate programs require at least one essay. Usually, the statement of purpose of a research-based program will be more academic and more formal.

Consult your program’s official website to determine which essays you’ll need to write (and whether you’ll need to write more than one). Details about the requirements should be available on the application itself or the program’s webpage. Additionally, see if anyone has asked about the program’s essay requirements on the FAQ page.

You can contact the program directly by phone or email if you have any questions about what your grad school admissions essay should focus on or what type of essay you are required to write.

How to Write a Statement of Purpose

To begin, we’ll examine the statement of purpose, a more formal and academic essay.

Think about your future goals:

It is up to you to describe how this particular program will help you achieve your goals (academic, professional, or both).

Therefore, you must cite your sources clearly in your essay and explain how they relate to the field and program that you’re applying to.

Consider what you hope this graduate program will do for you, academically and/or professionally. If you are applying to an MSc program in computer science, you might discuss how you plan to stop being a real estate agent and become a freelance web developer instead.

Include a statement explaining why this particular program will help you. During your grad program, you might be attracted to internships which, you believe, will allow you to transition into a professional career after graduation more easily.

Do research on the program and its professors:

Likely, you have already done some research on the program. If not, why would you be applying? Nonetheless, it’s critical to dig deeper so that you can write about the specific aspects of the program that interest you.

The following are some examples of features you could write about:

  1. Faculty members with whom you are interested in working with
  2. Classes you hope to take
  3. Events related to internships, networking, or other professional-oriented activities offered by the program or school
  4. Programs focused on specific topics, ideas, or skills
  5. Any other program’s other qualities, including its small class size, its emphasis on group projects, its competitions or contests in your field, etc.

The following things should not be mentioned in your essay:

  1. Selectivity or acceptance rate of the program
  2. The ranking of the program

To learn more about your program, you should visit its official website. You will then get a better idea of what the program entails, what it aims to achieve, and what students it is designed for.

 Describe how you are a good match

Grad programs should be able to admit applicants who will be able to study what they want to research and who will be able to contribute to the program’s mission and faculty expertise.

For those wishing to apply to doctoral programs, this is particularly relevant to consider since you are most likely to work one-on-one with a particular faculty member on a research project or dissertation.

In your statement of purpose, you can emphasize how well you fit into the program by writing about the following:

Finding a professor whose research interests and expertise align with yours.

You need to consider the program’s academic or professional focus and how it matches your future career goals.

If you would like to write about a general topic for your dissertation, you might seek a professor whose research areas match yours.

Highlight Your Achievements:

Including (relevant) academic and professional achievements is an important part of the statement of purpose, but it’s not just for explaining goals and fit.

Be sure not to repeat what’s already on your undergraduate transcript or CV/resume, so be very specific about what you’ve accomplished and how it has influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree in this field.

 Describe how you are a good match

Grad programs should be able to admit applicants who will be able to study what they want to research and who will be able to contribute to the program’s mission and faculty expertise.

This is especially important for those applying to PhD programs since you’ll probably be working one-on-one with your advisor on a major dissertation or research project.

In your statement of purpose, you can emphasize how well you fit into the program by writing about the following:

Professors with expertise and research areas compatible with your research interests, backgrounds, and/or skills

Whether the program matches your future goals academically or professionally

If you would like to write about a general topic for your dissertation, you might seek a professor whose research areas match yours.

How to write a Personal Statement

Here is how to write a personal statement.

 Tell a Story

It’s essential in a personal statement that you share a compelling story, as it’s less formal. In other words, you have more freedom to be creative with the personal statement than with the statement of purpose.

When it comes to grad school applications, your personal statement is the one place where you can really show off your creativity. Similarly, you do not have to follow the conventional chronological order (though nothing is inherently wrong with that).

You can use various literary techniques to demonstrate your creativity, from metaphors and imagery to dialogue and colloquialisms. You can also write in a less formal tone than you would in a statement of purpose. Don’t be afraid to share that joke or eccentric story!

Don’t go overboard with informalities, and make sure you are still presenting yourself as an ideal candidate who fits the program perfectly.

Identify your personal motivations

The personal statement lets you be a bit more personal than the statement of purpose can so take this opportunity to explain more about how you became interested in this field and why you applied to this program.

Consider your motivations for applying to grad school and continuing your studies in your specific field. Rather than thinking about grad school exclusively, study the specific program you wish to apply to. How did you come to discover this program and at this time?

Describe any weaknesses/challenges you’ve overcome

If you have overcome any challenges or barriers during the past few years, you can mention them in your graduate school personal statement. Usually, these struggles are personal and include your career, school, health, money, etc.

Perhaps your undergraduate GPA wasn’t that great your freshman year because you struggled to find a place to live and didn’t know anyone. You could discuss how joining the badminton team at your school helped you make friends and become more comfortable with the college lifestyle in your personal statement.

Write a positive essay despite whatever challenge you are facing. By doing so, you’ll demonstrate to the admissions committee that you’re capable of overcoming challenges by yourself.

Include details to engage the reader

Make the audience remember your life story by sharing a compelling and memorable story, funny or sad. It will be easier for your personal statement to be compelling if you can provide more concise details. If you are inspired to study medicine based on your father’s illness, long-term ambitions to study law to right wrongs experienced or witnessed by your family, or interest in robotics and artificial intelligence, you should share your triumphs and fears. Be unique and personal.

Essays and Statements of Purpose (SOPs)

If you apply for admission overseas, you will most certainly need to submit a statement of purpose. The statement of purpose explains your career goals, interests, the reason you decided to enroll in a particular program and degree, etc.

You have the opportunity to interact with the admissions committee when writing your SOP directly. If you have any concerns with your application, you can communicate them with the admission committee through the statement of purpose. Poor grades, family issues, and other personal problems can all be explained. While explaining circumstances to the admission committee, don’t appear to be making excuses for your grades. You must accept responsibility for your actions.

It is common for students to become stressed simply by the idea of writing an essay. There is no need for students to use flowery language or have superior writing skills (unless you are applying for an English major). Still, they are looking for students who have clear and concise ideas and articulate their reasons for applying to a specific university and major. Try to keep your SOP to about 1,000 words if you do not have a word limit.

Applicants to MBA programs may not have to submit a statement of purpose but may need to submit essays instead. In business schools, applicants are asked questions such as, “What are your short- and long-term career goals?”?Discuss your leadership and teamwork activities, and describe a problem you faced at work. Most students will first write out an SOP that addresses these issues. From their statement of purpose or essay, they answer specific questions about the university. Always write your statement of purpose or essay yourself. Copying from books or websites is never a good idea.

If you’re an international student, you’re unlikely to have the opportunity to visit your university and meet with admission officers. It goes without saying that the essay is an important part of your application package. Don’t experience myopic paranoia if you don’t receive any additional help with your essays or SOP. As long as you have a clear picture of your career goals, why you want to attend a particular university, and why you want to pursue a particular program, you will not need to worry about admissions procedures. You can use this experience to do some soul searching. Find out why you are interested in studying abroad and what you plan on doing after you graduate.

Tips for both the Statement of Purpose and Personal Statement

The following tips can be used for both graduate school statements.

Pay attention to the instructions

Follow all the instructions for your statement for grad school. That’s the #1 rule for creating a statement. Here are some specific steps to take:

Attempt to answer all of the questions in the prompt, even if you don’t need to answer them all. Some prompts will not require you to answer every question, but it’s best if you answer most of them.

Follow the length requirements – most grad schools have either a word count (e.g., 500 words) or a page count (e.g., two to three double-spaced pages), so make sure you stick to it!

Include any information that the program requires on each page of your essay-most likely your full name and the document type, page number, etc.

For more details about the requirements for your personal statement or statement of purpose, please contact the grad program directly.

Use Specific Details

To write an effective essay, you need to be as specific as possible. You must include names of people, places, events, and emotions in your grad school personal statement and statement of purpose. This will ensure that your essay is an engaging read for the admissions committee and make your essay more realistic.

Furthermore, provide some specifics about the graduate program, including your research interests and what attracts you to this area. Rather than simply saying, “I became interested in psychology when I took an introductory psychology course in college,” tell us who taught the class, what you learned that interested you, and why you initially enrolled in it.

Don’t be fake

Despite a statement of purpose being more formal than a personal statement, you should still sound authentic in both essays. Be honest and authentic in your writing. When writing your essay, don’t worry about finding vocabulary words from a thesaurus-the admissions committee will tell you’re simply trying to sound smart!

Write in a tone that’s sophisticated and believable, demonstrating your taste and intellect.

Editing and proofreading

Don’t forget to have plenty of time to edit and proofread the essays for your graduate school application. The personal statement and statement of purpose should demonstrate your mastery of grammar, style, and writing, so take your time and create a compelling (and clear!) statement.

Check over your rough draft for any typos, grammar errors, spelling, punctuation, and awkward or irrelevant areas. Once you have edited your essay, you should give it to someone else to read, such as a former professor (provided that s/he is willing to do so for you), and ask for their feedback on how to improve or make changes to it.