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Gre prep online guides and tips, statement of purpose vs personal statement: the 2 big differences.
Applying to grad school means having to write a killer statement. This statement can be either a statement of purpose or a personal statement (or both, as we’ll explain later). But what exactly is the difference between these two types of essays?
In this guide to the statement of purpose vs personal statement, we take an in-depth look at the unique purposes of the grad school statement of purpose and personal statement, how the two essays are different and alike, and what you can do to ensure you produce an essay that’s guaranteed to get you into grad school.
What’s the Difference Between a Personal Statement and a Statement of Purpose?
First off, what is the main difference between a statement of purpose and a personal statement for grad school?
The short answer is that a statement of purpose is about what you want to do, while a personal statement is about who you are. Each essay has its own goals in what it’s supposed to do for you and the program you’re applying to.
Whereas the statement of purpose showcases your academic strengths and background, career goals, research interests, and fit with the program, the personal statement highlights your personal motivations for applying to the program and any major accomplishments you’ve had or challenges you’ve faced along the way.
In spite of these big differences, both statements essentially serve the same overarching purpose: to make the admissions committee think you are a good fit and will be successful in the program to which you’re applying.
Here’s a brief overview of the biggest differences between a personal statement and a statement of purpose:
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Statement of Purpose vs Personal Statement: Which Do You Need to Write?
Now that you know the main difference between a personal statement and a statement of purpose, which one will you have to actually write for your grad school applications?
The answer to this question depends on what documents your school requires and how it defines the two types of essays.
While some grad schools, such as Michigan State University and the UC system , clearly distinguish between the two essays and require two separate statements for admission, other schools don’t distinguish at all between the personal statement and statement of purpose. In fact, many grad programs use the terms interchangeably!
Meanwhile, some grad schools combine qualities from both statements into one comprehensive statement. Notre Dame’s Creative Writing MFA program , for instance, requires an essay that’s really a combination of the personal statement and statement of purpose: it asks applicants to talk about their future academic and professional goals as well as any personal aspects of their identity that influence their writing.
Generally, most grad programs will require at least one essay. For research-based programs, this will likely be the more academic, more formal statement of purpose.
To figure out which essay you’ll need to write for your program (and whether you’ll need to write more than one), check the program’s official website. You should be able to find details on either the program’s application requirements page or the application itself. I also advise checking the FAQ page to see whether anyone has asked a question about the program’s essay requirements.
If you’re still confused about what your grad school admissions essay should focus on and/or what type of essay you’re required to write for your application, contact the program directly by email or phone.
How to Approach the Statement of Purpose vs Personal Statement: 11 Tips
In light of these major differences between the personal statement and statement of purpose, it’s important that you also know the differences in how you approach each essay.
In this section, we give you our top tips for how to write a truly effective and compelling personal statement and statement of purpose for grad school. We also give you some general tips you can use for both essays.
How to Write a Statement of Purpose
We’ll start with the statement of purpose—the more formal, more academic essay.
Tip 1: Consider Your Future Goals
Most statements of purpose will require you to introduce your future goals (academic, professional, or both) and describe how this particular program will help you achieve these goals. Therefore, it’s important that you clearly lay out in your essay the ambitions you have, and explain how these relate to the field you want to enter and the program to which you’re applying.
Think deeply about what you hope this grad program will do for you, academically and/or professionally. For example, if you’re applying for a master’s program in computer science, you could talk about how you plan to leave your career as a real estate agent to become a freelance web developer.
Make sure that you also explain why this program in particular will help you. Perhaps you enjoy the grad program’s emphasis on internships and believe these will let you more easily enter the professional world upon graduation, for example.
Tip 2: Research the Program and Its Professors
You likely already did some research on the program—why else would you be applying?—but it’s important to dig even deeper so you can write about specific aspects of the program that interest you.
Here are some examples of features you could write about:
- Professors with whom you wish to work
- Certain classes you hope to take
- Internships, networking events, and/or other professionally oriented events offered by the program or school
- The program’s emphasis on a certain topic, idea, or skill
- Any other attributes of the program, such as its small class sizes, its emphasis on group projects, its contests or competitions in your field, etc.
Note that it’s best NOT to mention these things in your essay:
- The program’s selectivity or acceptance rate
- The program’s ranking
The best way to begin research on your program is to simply look at the program’s official website. This should give you all the information you need on what the program requires, what it focuses on, what types of students it’s geared toward, and so on.
I also recommend visiting websites such as The Grad Cafe and Reddit . With these websites, you can get the inside scoop by reading what real students have to say about the program you’re applying to.
Tip 3: Explain How You’re a Good Match
Grad programs must make sure that the applicants they admit will be able to study what they want to research and will fit well with the program’s overall focus and its faculty members’ areas of expertise.
This point is especially important for those applying to doctoral programs, since you’re most likely going to be working one-on-one with a specific faculty member on a major research project or dissertation.
Here are some things you can write about in your statement of purpose to highlight your “fit” with the program:
- A professor whose research areas and expertise align with your research interests, background, and/or skills
- The academic or professional focus of the program and how this matches your future goals (see Tip 1)
For example, maybe you hope to work with a professor whose research areas match the general topic you want to write about for your dissertation.
Tip 4: Emphasize Your Accomplishments
The statement of purpose isn’t just for explaining your goals and fit but also for talking about your (relevant) academic and professional accomplishments.
You don’t want to repeat what’s already on your undergraduate transcript or CV/resume, so try to be extremely specific here about what you’ve done and how this achievement has influenced your decision to get a graduate degree in this field.
How to Write a Personal Statement
Now that we’ve covered how to write a statement of purpose, let’s look at how your approach might differ for the personal statement.
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Tip 5: Tell a Story
Since the personal statement is less formal and more personal, you’ll want to ensure you’re telling a compelling story. In other words, you have more free rein to be creative with the personal statement than you do with the statement of purpose.
The personal statement is the one part of your grad school application where you can really flex your creative muscles. For instance, you don’t need to stick with the conventional chronological format (though there’s nothing wrong with this, of course).
A good way to show off your creativity is to use a variety of literary techniques , from imagery and metaphors to dialogue and colloquialisms. It’s also OK to write a little less formally than you would in a statement of purpose. So go ahead and tell that joke, or share that eccentric story!
Just be careful to not go overboard with informalities, and make sure you’re still clearly presenting yourself as a serious applicant who is an ideal fit for the program.
Tip 6: Focus On Your Personal Motivations
Since the personal statement allows you to be a bit more personal than the statement of purpose does, it’s best to use this space to focus more on your own personal reasons for developing an interest in this field and applying to this grad program specifically.
Take time to consider what motivated you to apply to grad school and to continue schooling in this particular field. Don’t just focus on grad school in general but on the specific program you are applying to. What initially drew you to this program and at this time?
Tip 7: Explain Any Weaknesses/Challenges You’ve Overcome
You can also use your grad school personal statement to discuss any major weaknesses in your application or any challenges or barriers you’ve overcome in recent years. These can be personal struggles with things such as your career, school, health, money, etc.
For example, maybe your undergraduate GPA wasn’t that high your freshman year because you struggled with living away from home and not knowing anyone at your college. In your personal statement, you could discuss how joining your school’s badminton team helped you make friends and more easily adjust to college life.
Regardless of the challenge you write about, put a positive spin on it. This will prove to the grad admissions committee that you’re able to overcome challenges on your own and can push forward to be successful.
General Tips for Both the Statement of Purpose and Personal Statement
In this final section, we give you some general tips you can use for both grad school statements.
Tip 8: Read the Instructions Carefully
The #1 most important rule for any statement for grad school is that you follow all the instructions for the essay. Specifically, this means you should do the following:
- Answer the prompt and all the questions in it —some prompts won’t require you to answer every single question it asks, though it’s best to answer most if you can
- Adhere to the length requirements —most grad school essays will give you either a word limit (e.g., 500 words) or a page limit (e.g., two to three double-spaced pages), so don’t go over this!
- Include any information the program requires you to put on each page of your essay —this will most likely be your full name and might also include the document type, page number, etc.
If you have any questions about the requirements for your personal statement or statement of purpose, contact the grad program directly to ask.
Tip 9: Use Specific Details
In any essay you write, it’s important to be as specific as possible. And in a grad school personal statement and statement of purpose, it’s critical that you include the names of people and places, as well as vivid descriptions of people, ideas, events, and emotions. Doing this will make your essay not only more realistic but also more relatable to the admissions committee.
Moreover, try to touch on specific aspects of the grad program, including your research interests and what drew you to this field of study. Don’t just write, “I developed an interest in psychology after taking an introductory psychology class in college.” Tell us who taught the class, the topics you studied that were most fascinating to you, and why you initially decided to enroll in this class.
Tip 10: Be Authentic
While a statement of purpose is more formal than a personal statement is, you still want to sound authentic in both essays. So make an effort to write in your real, honest voice. Don’t feel the need to grab a thesaurus to look up difficult vocab words to include in your essay—the admissions committee will be able to tell you’re just trying to sound smart!
Ultimately, you want to write in a sophisticated yet natural-sounding voice that shows off your personality while also highlighting your intelligence and maturity.
Tip 11: Edit and Proofread
Finally, give yourself plenty of time to edit and proofread your essays for your grad school applications. A big part of the personal statement and statement of purpose is showing off your superior, grad-level writing skills, so take your time to craft a compelling (and technically correct!) statement.
Once you’ve got a rough draft completed, look it over for any typos; errors in grammar, spelling, or punctuation; and awkward or irrelevant areas. After you’ve done your own edit, give your essay to someone else to read, such as a former professor (if he or she has agreed to look at it for you), and ask for some feedback on what you could improve or change.
Conclusion: The Critical Difference Between a Statement of Purpose and Personal Statement
When it comes down to the statement of purpose vs personal statement for grad school, how exactly are the two different—and how are they alike? While both essays are meant to make the grad admissions committee want to admit you, they each contain pretty different information.
The statement of purpose is the more formal of the two, highlighting your academic/professional background and accomplishments, your future goals, and how you see yourself fitting with the program you’re applying to.
By contrast, the personal statement is less formal and focuses more on who you are as a person, including what motivated you to apply to grad school (and this program) and what kinds of obstacles you’ve faced in life.
Most grad programs require at least one statement; this could be either a personal statement, a statement of purpose, or a statement that’s some sort of combination of the two. And some programs require both essays.
Because a statement of purpose differs from a personal statement, the way you approach each statement is also different.
Here’s what you want to do for a statement of purpose:
- Consider your future goals
- Research the program and professors
- Explain how you’re a good match
- Emphasize your accomplishments
For a personal statement, on the other hand, you’ll want to do the following:
- Tell a story
- Focus on your personal motivations
- Explain any weaknesses or challenges you’ve overcome
Finally, for both statements, be sure to take these four steps:
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- Read the instructions carefully
- Use specific details
- Be authentic
- Edit and proofread
Now that you understand the major difference between a statement of purpose and personal statement, you can get started on writing an amazing grad school admissions essay!
Still not sure how to approach the grad school statement? Then check out our collections of real examples of statements of purpose and personal statements .
For even more tips on how to write a killer grad school essay, take a look at our expert guides to how to write the statement of purpose and how to write the personal statement .
What does a grad school application look like? Learn more about grad school application requirements , and get tips on how to find acceptance rates for the grad programs you’re applying to .
Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?
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
Statement of Purpose Vs. Personal Statement – A Guide for Early Career Researchers
You were busy gathering information on how to apply for PhD programs abroad and you came across terms like Statement of Purpose (SOP), personal statement, letter of recommendation, etc. You are aware of these documents but how is one different from another, is still confusing. Your peers did mention how important these documents are while seeking admissions!
Among the researchers there always was confusion in understanding the difference between these academic documents . Moreover, many have a notion that statement of purpose and personal statement are the same. In this article, we will discuss statement of purpose vs. personal statement , why they are important, and which one to write when?
What is a Statement of Purpose (SOP)?
The statement of purpose is a letter that explains your rationale for applying to a graduate program and why an early career researcher is good for the program. The admission panel is interested to know why the candidate is interested in the program. This statement acts as a bridge to a possible candidate’s past and future in academics.
The early career researcher should have a substantial amount of experience in the field of research they are applying for. However, the program one applies to defines whether the early career research must mention their past experiences in the field of study. For example, it does not solve the purpose to mention the research experience in detail if they are applying for an MBA program.
Writing a statement of purpose requires understanding the academic journey. It is good to observe all the past events and life-changing turns in the career. This will help the candidate create strong reasoning for wanting to apply to the necessary program. Furthermore, once the candidate understands the academic past and possible future and does thorough background research, he/she must focus on how to create an original story.
A Well-Written Statement of Purpose
A well-written Statement of Purpose (SOP) could convince the admission panel to accept your application. The statement of purpose should have believable responses to questions such as –
- Why did you choose this school/university?
- Which field of research you are passionate about?
- Why you can’t pursue it in your country?
- Which Professor(s) is pursuing this field? And how does their work align with your interest?
- What do you want to gain from this academic experience?
- How has your background prepared you to develop this interest?
- What are your career goals?
- Why did you not score well on certain tests and what did you learn from that failure?
- And finally, what is special about you, and how does it set you apart from the rest?
What is a Personal Statement?
The personal statement is a personal note wherein the applicant writes about the personal as well as the academic background. The essay lets you share personal and professional experiences along with your academic experiences. However, there is less emphasis on research or future intent as compared to statement of purpose, in a personal statement.
In a personal statement, you are promoting yourself based on your skills as to why you are the right applicant for the particular course. Furthermore, it is essential to mention your readiness for the course and enthusiasm for the field you are applying for.
A candidate should add the following details while writing a personal statement –
- Candidates’ goals and values
- A personal story based on acquired skillset
- Discussion over what motivates the candidate
- Importance of the chosen course in today’s world.
Difference Between Statement of Purpose and Personal Statement
A statement of purpose explains why you want to study a given subject topic (it could be for a program) and a personal statement explains why you are a right candidate for a program. Furthermore, the statement of purpose discusses the area of interest while a personal statement discusses your motivation for applying.
An SOP focuses on highlighting the early career researcher’s credentials and qualifications. A personal statement focuses on the candidate’s acquired skills. Finally, a statement of purpose discusses how the candidate plans to achieve academic or professional goals. While a personal statement focuses on candidate’s relevant experiences, challenges, or accomplishments.
Statement of Purpose Vs. Personal Statement – Which One to Choose?
Choosing the right essay depends on the requirements of the universities because some institutions ask for a statement of purpose while others instruct for writing a personal statement . Some global graduation institutes would ask for separate statements and during admission they combine the qualities of both essays and may ask applicants to write a comprehensive essay. To find out which essay to write, it is good to check the university website, the requirement page will give details on the program.
Tips for Statement of Purpose Vs. Personal Statement
For statement of purpose –.
- Help the admission committee to analyze your aptitude and motive for taking admission to their university. Thus, write what the admission committee wants to know.
- Admission officers read hundreds of SOPs in each academic session. Then can find flaws quite efficiently. However, a genuine statement of purpose that talks about realistic achievements and thoughts of the future will intrigue their interest.
- All applicants are equally worthy. For your application to stand out, you must write a statement that stands out from the others. Start with an interesting introduction to capture the admission officer’s attention. Starting with an incident or a real-life experience would be the best way to write an introduction for your statement of purpose.
- Introduce your career goals. Be specific about how the program will help you attain your career objective. Mention your objectives related to the program you are applying to.
- Don’t be boastful but mention your academic and professional achievements. Try to be precise about the achievements and your decision in choosing the particular program.
For Personal Statement –
- Create an outline before you start writing the personal statement . Write down your thoughts in an organized manner and ensure that your essay is coherent and flows smoothly.
- You need to find personal reasons that motivate you to apply for the particular program. Spend some time to check what motivated you and apply for the course specifically.
- Talk to your friends and family members to find out about your unique qualities. You could also ask for an honest opinion from your siblings, they will be a better judge of your qualities.
- Discuss your weaknesses or challenges that you overcame in recent years. Also, mention your struggles during school or college. In the end, conclude on a positive note, this will tell the admission committee that you can tackle any challenges and succeed in any field.
When it comes to statement of purpose vs. personal statement , they are written to influence the admission committee by presenting the most important information about your life in words. A statement of purpose is more formal, highlighting your academic or professional background. Meanwhile, a personal statement is a bit informal and focuses on your qualities as a person.
Did you know the difference between statement of purpose vs. personal statement ? Did you write a statement of purpose or a personal statement? What ways did you follow to write these essays? Do write to us or leave a comment below!
great article to read
Your website provided alot of insight into the two keywords which are not found in many websites,however it will do good to include examples to further highlight the differences in the two words.Thanks
Great read. Thanks. It’d be perfect to add some samples to further highlight the application of the differences.
Very well received with thanks.
I loved the information and I am willing to learn more
What is the difference between a Statement of Purpose (SOP) and a Personal Statement when applying for PhD programs abroad?
This is really a good guide. Thank you
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Difference between SOP and Personal Statement
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Updated on 09 November, 2023
Sr. content writer & study abroad expert.
Most reputed universities ask for a statement of purpose (SOP) or a personal statement. Although the Statement of Purpose and Personal Statement contain different information, the two are very alike. A student must know the difference between a personal statement and a statement of purpose if they plan to study overseas. It will help them to answer effectively according to the university’s requirements, which can increase your possibilities of selection into the university. Thus, a student should know the difference between the two before drafting one.
Table of Contents
Personal statement, understanding the difference between sop and personal statement, understanding the key similarities between sop and personal statement, plan the structure:, write their motivational instances:, find unique qualities:, tell about weakness or challenges that they succeeded in:.
- Objectives of Personal Statement
Frequently Asked Questions
In the SOP (Statement of purpose), a student needs to tell the admission committee about their intention of pursuing a particular program and how they make the right fit for the program. It is indispensable to understand a student’s academic interests and evaluate their aptitude and preparation for graduate work, as well as their fit with the proposed program of study. It is also used to assess their ability to write convincing and coherent prose.
A well-written SOP could convince the admission officers to accept their applications. Additionally, to make an impeccable SOP, a student must include the following aspects:
1) Career goals
2) Academic excellence
3) Education background
4) Professional recognition
5)What is their purpose when applying for graduate study in a specified program? A student’s area(s) of interest, including any subfield(s) or interdisciplinary interests.
6) What experiences have prepared you for advanced study or research in this degree program? What skills have you gained from these experiences?
7) Share essential past experiences that may aid the selection committee in examining a student’s preparation and aptitude.
8) Long-term and short-term goals after acquiring the degree
9) Why that particular country (for undergraduate students
A personal statement is an opportunity for a student to mention additional details that may aid the selection committee in examining their aptitude and preparation for graduate study. In a personal statement, they need to explain why they are the right applicant for the particular course. In it, they need to prove their readiness for taking admission to particular courses. They need to demonstrate their enthusiasm for the field they are applying for.
A few details they need to add to their statement include
- Are their economic, personal, educational, cultural, or social experiences, not mentioned in their Statement of Purpose, that have shaped their academic journey? If so, elucidate. Have any of these experiences provided unique perspective(s) that they would contribute to their program, field or profession?
- How have their life experiences and educational background informed their understanding of the barriers facing groups that are underrepresented in higher education?
- Describe predicament(s) or barriers they have faced in pursuing higher education. What was their motivation to persist? And how did they surpass those challenges? Share the evidence of their progress.
- How do they intend to engage in scholarly discourse, creative efforts, research, teaching, and/or community engagement during their graduate program that has the potential to advance diversity?
1) The statement of purpose is all about what you want to achieve in your career and is more focused on your academic/ professional qualities while the personal statement is about your present achievements and personal motivation that make you the right candidate for the program.
2) The statement of purpose consists of educational excellence, career goals, and how well you fit in the program while the personal statement expresses your motives for applying for the specific programs and any other major challenge or accomplishment you have faced till now.
3) The SOP is a forward-looking essay in which admission officers are keenly watching every detail you present to them related to future career plans and research goals. On the other hand, the personal statement is a reflection of your happenings which is more concerned with your prior studies.
4) SOP can be a two-page essay, a much more detailed version. While a personal document is usually a crisp and one-page essay.
Although an SOP and a personal statement share a common goal, still, both essays dictate how meritorious a student is to get success in the program. In both essays, a student needs to carefully read all the directions, use a professional tone, be honest, and proofread many times. Both types of essays need to be written between 1-2 pages. Moreover, students should ensure to avoid cliches while writing both.
SOP or Personal Statement: Which One to Write?
Choosing the right essay completely depends on the conditions of universities as some institutions would want you to write an SOP while others would instruct you to write a personal statement. Some global grad institutes ask for separate statements for admission while some combine the qualities of both essays and want applicants to write a comprehensive essay. For instance, a combination of SOP and personal statement is like talking about the academic and professional goals with a personal touch of successes and motivation. To find out which essay a student needs to write, check the website of the university, they will find the details on the program application requirements page.
Tips to write an impactful personal statement
Students should outline the structure before they start writing the personal statement. Write down their thoughts in an organized manner and ensure that the essay flows smoothly.
They should specify the personal reasons that motivate them to apply for the particular program. Spend time checking what motivated them and to apply for the course specifically.
Students should talk to their friends and family members and ask them about their unique qualities. Sometimes, it is difficult to list down their strengths so it is better to ask their friends. Ask them if they remember any story and these situations will set you apart from other aspirants.
They can discuss their weaknesses or challenges that they overcame in recent years. They can talk about personal struggles they encountered during school or college. Despite any challenge, write a positive conclusion, in the end, that will tell the admission committee that they can tackle any challenge and get success in any field or situation.
Objectives of Personal Statement
Let us look at some of the main objectives of a personal statement:
- A student must demonstrate their writing skills personally when applying to a graduate program. Remember, their personal statement will help the authorities evaluate their nature and qualities as a person.
- They must also discuss their career, personal, and educational goals clearly and answer general questions as laid down by the university’s admission committee.
- They should gauge their analytical and critical thinking and their editing skills, writing, and general reasoning. Moreover, they need to share their work experience and educational qualifications.
- Their writing must give an insight that will help the university’s admission committee to determine whether they are a good fit or not.
The personal Statement vs. Statement of purpose will give us a detailed understanding of both documents. It is important to understand their importance and topic of focus for best results.
Comparison: Personal Statement Vs. SOP
Difference between Statement of purpose and personal Statement:
Personal Statement vs. SOP will help all new applicants to write them better and have a powerful impact on the admission committee of the universities.
Both SOP and personal statements are meant to influence the admission committee by presenting important information in the applicant’s words. The SOP is more formal, which highlights their academic or professional background, recognitions, realizations, future goals that tells if they are a worthy candidate for the program. In contrast, a personal statement is a document that focuses on their qualities as a person. Most grad courses require a personal statement or SOP or a combination of both, however there are some universities which require both.
For more information about writing an exceptional SOP, check out our other blogs. Leave your comments below!
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Related Reads: How to write an SOP for MIS with work experience? SOP Samples for MS – Things to Include, Format & More
What should you write in a personal statement?
A personal statement should act as a snippet of a student’ s past achievements and focus on their intent to pursue the course. Moreover, what more they can add to the field, once they complete the course. Now, let us look at the other elements that should be included or taken care of when drafting a personal statement:
- First of all, be yourself and focus on being as genuine as possible when writing a personal statement.
- Avoid using cliché statements to come across as real.
- Do not forget to proofread what you have written before sending it.
- You can use your personal experiences to create an impact and better your points of getting shortlisted. But do not make the whole document overly focused on your experiences alone.
- Use simple and easy-to-understand words. A student should be able to get their message across.
- If a student is asked a question, they should answer it completely and confidently with specific examples and details.
- Always write new unique experiences in your Statement for every college a student decides to apply to.
What is an example of a personal statement?
An ideal personal statement explains a student’s attributes as a deserving candidate for the institution. They must be able to explain in detail their past experiences and how it has helped them grow emotionally and mentally as a person. Human values are best learned through personal experiences, and thus it is important to show what values they hold to become a part of a specific social circle or community. For example, they can say, “I have attended various social awareness programs that discuss and work against sexual assault in society.” This experience has helped them understand the trauma a person goes through and how society reacts to it.
How do you write a personal statement?
Writing a personal statement that helps a student’s application stand out is not an easy job. Thus, one needs to focus on their reason for applying when writing a statement of purpose. They should elucidate intellectual & professional & research interest and the expertise they have gained.
Akansha Semwal is a content marketer at upGrad and has also worked as a social media marketer & sub-editor. Experienced in creating impressive Statement of Purpose, Essays, and LOR, she knows how to captivate the attention of Admissions Committee. Her research-driven;study-abroad articles helps aspirants to make the prudent decision. She holds a bachelor's & master's degree in Literature from the University of Delhi.
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Personal statement vs. statement of purpose: key differences.
Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University
What is the difference between a personal statement vs statement of purpose? Keep reading as we differentiate between the different types of statements you might have to write for your application.
Scholars wanting to take the next step in their academic career and apply to grad school will most likely have to write personal statements and statements of purpose in the application process.
The big question is: what is the difference between a personal statement vs a statement of interest? Is a statement of purpose the same as a personal statement? Which one should you submit?
To best stand out on applications and impress admissions officers, understanding the expectations of each statement is key.
If you’re getting your grad school applications together and are unsure of which statement to write or the differences between the two, we’ve got you covered!
Keep reading as we outline the differences between the two statements and answer some of your frequently asked questions.
What is The Difference Between a Personal Statement and a Statement of Purpose?
Going off of the names, a personal statement and a statement of purpose can sound pretty similar. However, there are differences between the two, and each statement has a specific aim.
Knowing the distinction between each statement and the appropriate circumstances to write each statement is vital to impressing college admissions committees and having your college application stand out.
The table below points out key differences between personal statements and a statement of purpose.
Ultimately, both statements have similar goals. They both require the applicant to demonstrate why they are a great candidate for the chosen program and institute and why they should be accepted into the program.
While there are differences in the composition of each statement, there are a few essential things to keep in mind regardless of the school or program you’re applying for. These requirements are as follows
- Proofread and edit for errors and spelling mistakes.
- Be truthful and genuine.
- Use accessible language that you understand and avoid academic jargon.
- Be specific and use examples from your experiences.
When writing either statement, remember to carefully read the instructions from each college before you begin writing. Different colleges may have different requirements for formatting and statement length, among other things.
Personal Statement vs. Statement of Purpose: Which One To Write?
First and foremost, ensure that you read the instructions on the school’s webpage! The webpage will clearly list and define what each school is asking for. Look at the program’s FAQ page for more information as well.
Some schools will clearly define which type of statement they require hopeful students to submit. Some schools, however, ask for a mix of the two.
For example, the University of Notre Dame’s MFA in Creative Writing program asks applicants to write a statement of intent that describes both personal goals and motivations for applying to the program. Make sure you know exactly what the program is asking for before you begin writing.
If you need to make the call on which statement to submit on your own, there are a few things you should consider. One thing to keep in mind is the program you are applying to.
Typically, research-based programs will be looking for more professional essays. In this case, submitting a statement of purpose may be the better choice.
If you are applying to a creative writing program or a grad program in the humanities, writing a personal statement may be more fitting. Typically, humanities programs want to know more about you as a person and how your experiences have shaped you into the person you are now.
Humanities programs, like English or Gender Studies, want to see that students can be reflective, as the research topics pursued in these programs often require self-reflection and critical thought. In cases like this, you should write a personal statement as it often provides more insight into who you are.
Tips on How to Write a Personal Statement
Your personal statement is a necessary element of many college applications. It may seem like a daunting task, but here are some tips to help you tackle it:
- Start with a hook : If you want your personal statement to stand out from the rest, you’ll need to start with a bang . Consider using a descriptive or action-packed hook to grab your reader’s attention right off the bat and keep them reading.
- Stay away from clichés : Admissions officers have to read tens of thousands of personal statements; they hear the same things over and over again. It’s okay to talk about an experience that may be considered cliché, but make it your own. Include details that are unique to your personal story.
- Use engaging language : Your personal statement should draw the reader in. Paint a picture with your words. Use sensory language and descriptive details to convey your emotions and experiences. If you’d like, you can take a look at some personal statement examples to give you inspiration.
Some other details to include in your personal statement include but are not necessarily limited to the following:
- Personal information
- Specific courses that changed your perspective or inspired you
- Your passions
- Your hobbies and extracurricular activities
Remember to stay focused while writing. Your personal statement should answer the question, “What do I want the college admissions team to know about me?” Don’t get off-track and make your statement any longer than it needs to be .
If you’re still overwhelmed by this task, there’s nothing wrong with seeking help. You can get expert help with personal statements to make your application stand out from the crowd!
Tips on How to Write a Statement of Purpose
Your statement of purpose, while similar, should be more direct than your personal statement. As you write, remember that you’re trying to answer the question, “What do I intend to do with this degree?”
- Provide specific examples : Show, don’t tell. You can make many claims about your skills or abilities, but you need to back up these claims with specific evidence. UC Berkeley advises students to use examples for everything - “don’t say directly that you’re a persistent person, show it.”
- Demonstrate your knowledge of the school : Be specific about why you want to attend this particular school. This shows passion and a sense of direction and motivation. Avoid writing a generic, lackluster statement of purpose to reuse for multiple schools. Instead, include certain classes or professors that intrigue you.
- Look toward the future : Make sure to end your statement of purpose with a glimpse into your future at the school and beyond. How will attending this particular school and program help you to make strides in your career and the world around you?
Some other achievements to highlight in your statement of purpose include:
- Extracurricular activities that you participated in
- Community service or volunteer hours
- Long-term career goals
Of course, having good grammar and spelling applies to both statements. Make sure that your work is error-free by proofreading multiple times and asking friends or family members to read it over for you.
FAQs: Personal Statement Vs. Statement Of Purpose
Now that we’ve answered “is a statement of purpose the same as a personal statement?”, let’s move on to answering some of your other frequently asked questions about personal statements vs statements of purpose.
1. What is the Difference Between a Personal Statement and SOP?
Simply put, a personal statement should include your motivations and interests–speaking more to who you are as a person. Meanwhile, a statement of purpose focuses more on why you want to study in the program you’re applying to and your academic abilities.
While writing a statement of purpose, make sure to write what the admissions committee wants to hear. Writing a persuasive statement of purpose can help your college application stand out amongst your competition.
2. Can I Submit a Statement of Purpose as a Personal Statement?
As the two statements differ a lot from each other, it won’t be the best idea to submit your statement of purpose as a personal statement. You can, however, tweak your SOP a bit to make it fit into the criteria of a personal statement.
Your statement of purpose should outline your academic achievements and credentials. You can change up the wording and alter the content a bit to take a more personal approach for a personal statement.
In showing off your academic prowess and attention to detail, you should pay close attention to how you’re writing your statement. College admission committees will notice if your statement is vague or does not follow what they asked for.
While it may be time-consuming to write multiple statements (if you are applying for various programs), it is in your best interest to take the time and write a specific statement for each program.
Don’t cut corners for your college applications.
3. Is a Personal Statement the Same as a Statement of Purpose?
A personal statement is not the same as a statement of purpose. As we have discussed throughout the article, the two take different tones and have different objectives.
A personal statement is more of a storytelling piece that reveals how you got to where you are today. It can be less formal and a bit more poetic and intimate than a statement of purpose.
You can be a bit more creative with your personal statement as well! Try starting it off with a relevant quote or a clever opening line to engage your audience right away.
A statement of purpose is more traditionally academic in its tone and structure. A statement of purpose should be more formal and focused on your credentials and accomplishments compared to a personal statement.
College admissions are no joke. Even if you are a strong applicant, there will also be tons of other applicants that have all the qualifications. Understanding the difference between a personal statement and a statement of purpose is crucial to standing out amongst thousands of other college applicants .
If you are applying to a research-based program, a statement of purpose will probably fit the requirements more. If you are applying to a humanities program, something more personal and less formal, like a personal statement, would be more fitting.
Use your own judgment to decide whether a personal statement or a statement of purpose would be most appropriate for the program.
Best of luck!
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Statement of Purpose vs Personal Statement: What is the Difference between Personal Statement and Statement of Purpose?
Aspirants who wish to study abroad often have this question in mind: what is the difference between a statement of purpose vs personal statement? Most of us don't care enough to understand and use the two terms interchangeably. However, there’s much more to the two being different; they have different forms, structures, and intentions.
In this article, we explore the differences between the two key documents at the time of registration to colleges: difference between personal statement and statement of purpose . And, by the end of this article, you should be able to craft your masterpiece without external aid.
Let us have a look at the meanings of a statement of purpose vs personal statement, their differences and similarities, ending with an overview of which is the best choice for you. Stay tuned.
What is a Statement of Purpose?
A statement of purpose is usually a two-page essay encompassing your virtues as an academic candidate. You put forth various details like personality traits, achievements, goals, aspirations, background, challenges, etc. and draw a vivid picture of yourself as an individual. An SOP encompasses every aspect of your life that other official documents might have overlooked.
An SOP is an important document for studying abroad. Be it a bachelor’s or a master’s program, every university requires you to write an SOP for them that helps them decide if you’re the better candidate in a group of options.
Suggested: How to Write an SOP for UG?
What is a Personal Statement?
A personal statement is keenly different from a statement of purpose. You can consider it a summary, a brisker version of your SOP, that focuses mainly on your personal information, skills and talents, and professional strengths. A personal statement should be engaging, and crisp, and should convey to the reader exactly what they’re looking for. Minus all the unnecessary details.
Suggested: How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement?
Moving on, let us understand the difference between SOP and personal statement:
What is the Difference between SOP and Personal Statement?
We now have a basic understanding of what an SOP and a Personal Statement individually are. Let us go through the difference between personal statement vs SOP in a table:
Suggested: SOP for PhD
In a gist, the situation you’re in and the program you’re applying to will decide whether you have to write an SOP or a personal statement.
SOP vs Personal Statement: Similarities
After seeing the difference between sop and personal statement, we know that while the two terms are distinct, there are certain similarities that compel users to use the two terms as synonyms. Here are a few aspects where the two closely resemble each other.
- Both reflect on your virtues and values, just in different tones
- Both are required when applying to a university/immigration program
- Both documents are smartly crafted
- Both should be engaging and should compel the reader to read more
- The documents often remain in a second-person tonality
Making the Choice: Personal Statement vs SOP
An SOP is used to apply to graduate or undergraduate programs of study. These revolve around your virtues, academic achievements, talents, and why you should get admission. These will usually be more in demand for most of the programs you apply to. Any full-time degree course usually calls for an SOP, and you can always summarise and edit the SOP to make a personal statement.
On the contrary, a personal statement is used in gaps between employment, jobs, apprenticeships, internships, and a few academic fields. Personal statements might also be useful for certification and diploma courses. The program you apply to will usually clarify the nature of the document you need.
It is advisable for students to go for a statement of purpose when choosing between a personal statement vs SOP. The latter is far more versatile and flexible and replaces a personal statement more often than vice versa.
Tips to Write the Best SOP and Personal Statement
Now that we’re acquainted with the differences between an SOP and a personal statement, let us look at the tips you should keep in mind while crafting them to maximise your intake chances.
Tips to write an SOP:
- Start with your introduction
- Talk about your achievements
- Talk about your talents and aspirations
- Give the reader a reason to consider you an able candidate
- Make the SOP look professional
- Use good vocabulary, structure sentences neatly, avoid fluff
- Break the content into paragraphs
- Make a connection with the reader and engage them
Tips to write a personal statement:
- Talk about your personal inclinations, motivations, talents, etc.
- Switch between tones as it feels natural
- Don’t overfill the content with uncommon words
- Keep gaps in between
- End and begin strongly
Suggested: How to Write an SOP for USA?
An SOP and a personal statement are briefly distinct terms. Often misunderstood to be the same, the difference can be quite significant if you pay enough attention. While most people pass them to be the same, understanding the difference and crafting your letters specifically make a better impression of your profile as an able candidate.
If you need professional assistance with your SOP or PS drafting and want to maximise your acceptance chances, enrol on our top-notch expert assistance for free now! Talk to experts, get your profile evaluated, and find more tips and tricks to make your SOP or PS groundbreaking.
- SOP Format for Canada
- SOP for MBA in USA
- SOP for the UK
Frequently Asked Questions about SOP vs Personal Statement
What is better: personal statement vs SOP?
An SOP is more versatile and can be used to craft a personal statement. A personal statement is only applicable in a few places.
What is the difference between SOP and personal statement?
An SOP is more comprehensive, while a PS is largely very crisp. Additionally, an SOP is less personal than a PS.
Is an SOP necessarily in English?
Most of the time, yes. But otherwise, Hindi and other languages are also acceptable.
Can someone else write my SOP?
Although this is a common practice, you should write your SOP yourself. The amount of affection, personal touch, and details you enter into your SOP or PS will never be paralleled to anybody else who does it.
How important is SOP vs personal statement?
An SOP vs personal statement, both are fairly important. At least one of these documents is required at all times, and you should have these ready. Other than that, the choice between a personal statement vs SOP is absolutely dependent on your situation and field.
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What’s the Difference Between Statement of Purpose vs. Personal Statement?
Now that you’re working on your grad school admissions, you might be wondering what the difference between a statement of purpose and a personal statement is. Before we dive into nitty gritty differences between the two, here’s an overview of the main purpose of each essay:
- In the Personal Statement, you will focus on telling the story of who you are, and why you want to pursue graduate study.
The Statement of Purpose and Personal Statement are your chance to tell an admissions committee your story and often the most important part of your application. Knowing the difference between these two forms of writing is the first step to wowing your prospective grad schools!
What’s the Difference Between a Statement of Purpose and a Personal Statement?
Your very first step should be to carefully read the prompt and instructions provided by each school you are applying to. These directions will help establish a roadmap for your Statement of Purpose (often referred to as an SOP) or Personal Statement.
The two types of essays share some common elements, but have different areas of emphasis. Both documents should answer three key questions:
Why do you want to go to grad school?
What do you want to do in grad school?
Why do you want to go to this particular school?
What’s different between the Personal Statement and Statement of Purpose is how much you focus on each of the above questions!
In the Statement of Purpose you will spend most of your time answering the question of what you want to do in grad school. You will focus on the type of research you want to do and the academic questions that you want to explore.
When you write a Personal Statement you will spend most of your time answering the question of why you want to go to grad school. You will be telling your story of what led you to apply and where you want your career to go after grad school. In both pieces of writing you will answer the question of why you and this graduate program are the perfect fit!
Here’s a quick overview of the key features of these two forms of writing:
Statement of Purpose
Just by looking at the table, you can see that the statement of purpose is a more formal statement that you write to highlight why you’re applying for that specific program . In a statement of purpose, state what you’re trying to pursue through your desired program, and highlight why you’re a good fit.
Your statement of purpose should be written in a formal tone , so keep this in mind while writing your draft. Include a quick overview of your educational and professional trajectory as well as past influences that have directed you towards your current path.
When writing a personal statement , establish why you’re applying for the program through your personal experiences and other aspects that motivated you to choose your program . Since writing a personal statement doesn’t require as formal of a tone, you can use your creativity to highlight what makes you an amazing fit for the program.
Write about your personal experiences, qualities, passion, and skill sets that you possess that will help you stand out from the rest of the applicants for your chosen program. Be specific and share examples of work you’ve done in the field and what’s drawn you to it.
Statement of Purpose vs Personal Statement: When Do You Write One?
The quick answer to that question is: it depends on what your program or chosen grad school requires . There are instances when a university requires a statement of purpose or a personal statement or even both.
To know which one to write, review your application requirements and take note of the type of statement the admissions program is asking from you. If you’re unsure as to which type you should be writing, check out the FAQs section of your chosen grad school’s program to see if they have specified the type of statement you need to write .
Summing It All Up
Now that we’ve established the difference between a statement of purpose vs personal statement, it’s time to wrap up our discussion. When preparing for your grad school admissions, check for any required essays and determine the type of statement they’re requiring from you.
For each type of essay, highlight what makes you unique and a great fit for your chosen program. Write a quick draft first highlighting your achievements and milestones using the tone expected from each type of statement. Allow enough time before reviewing your draft and editing it for its final form.
After completing your statement of purpose or personal statement, double-check your other requirements before submitting them to the grad school admissions team. The right grad school for you is the one that aligns with your values from your personal statement and the one where you’ll get to showcase the skillsets you’ve highlighted on your statement of purpose.
Shar loves helping students prepare for their upcoming aptitude exams including the SAT, ACT, GMAT, and GRE. She has also been helping students understand and appreciate math as a tutor and has also helped mathletes prepare for their upcoming competitions as a math coach in the past. She now focuses her time to help EdTech companies and educational websites with their educational content and resources and has been doing so for five years now. Through these articles, she’s helped students feel confident and prepared before upcoming exams. In her free time, she enjoys creating free math graphics, participating in online communities seeking help with their math prep and lessons, and offering pro-bono assistance for students within her community. Connect with Shar through LinkedIn or read about her work on Rubik’s cube .
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Jen has tutored and helped create and teach Admissions classes at Magoosh for the past four years. She is an alum of UCLA and a PhD Candidate in History at Emory University.
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Grad school personal statement vs statement of purpose: what’s the difference.
Broadly defined, the Personal Statement is, well, personal : it’s about you as a person. The Statement of Purpose is about—you guessed it—your purpose, which is to say, your goals in the program and beyond.
Unlike personal essays for college, which can focus on any especially meaningful aspect of your experiences, your graduate school Personal Statement should focus on your life as it relates to your career aspirations .
This essay should be autobiographical and retrospective, and should take the shape of a story. You can discuss educational, familial, cultural, socioeconomic, or personal experiences or challenges; you can also mention relevant extracurricular activities that help explain who you are. How have your life experiences impacted your personal character, values, and chosen field?
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Your Personal Statement can include a general description of your academic interests and career goals. You can incorporate your research experience and future interests in research, but typically this would not be a major component of the Personal Statement.
Statement of Purpose
In your Statement of Purpose, meanwhile, you’ll drill down into your academic interests and future plans. This essay should be more specific, technical, research based, and goals-focused; here, you’re looking forward rather than backward.
Explain why you are applying to grad school and be explicit about your qualifications for acceptance. Lay out your research interests and how they’ve developed through your academic and work experience; if you’ve had formative experiences with mentors, this is the place to mention them. State your career goals as specifically as possible.
And finally, discuss your fit with this particular program: which specific professors do you hope to work with? What resources would you hope to make use of? Which classes, research opportunities, and internships excite you most?
Comparison of the Essays
Let’s take an example of an applicant for an PhD in English. In your Personal Statement, you might discuss your passion for literature from a young age, and how you founded a new literary magazine at your college. You could also describe writing your college thesis on the role of science in Shakespeare’s plays. You could convey your enthusiasm, and how—hunched over your computer and a four-inch binder of notes—your years-long infatuation with analyzing Shakespeare’s tragedies crystallized into a desire to make this your career.
Your Statement of Purpose, meanwhile, would detail your training and qualifications to date; you would describe in a more factual manner the process of creating your thesis, including how you chose your topic, the sources you used, and how you developed and proved your arguments. In addition, you would cite the reasons the specific graduate program to which you’re applying would be the ideal fit for an English professor-in-training, the kind of research you hope to conduct in the future, and with which faculty members, and the specific shape of the career you hope will follow.
Examples of Essay Prompts
The PhD program in English at the University of Michigan has separate prompts for the Personal Statement and Statement of Purpose, which illustrate the differences between the two:
A clearly labeled biographical Personal Statement: statement about how your personal background and life experiences, including social, cultural, familial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges, motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan. This is not an Academic Statement of Purpose, but a discussion of the personal journey that has led to your decision to seek a graduate degree.
Statement of Purpose:
A clearly labeled academic and intellectual Statement of Purpose: statement about your academic and research background, your career goals, and how Michigan’s graduate program will help you meet your career and educational objectives.
It is important to note that some schools do not require two separate essays, but rather one essay that combines elements of both the Personal Statement and Statement of Purpose. Take, for example, the essay requirement of Princeton’s PhD program in English :
Highlight current academic and future career plans as they relate to the Princeton degree program to which you are applying. Include relevant academic, professional, and personal experiences that influenced the decision to apply for graduate admission and obtain a graduate degree. Outline the goals for graduate study.
If the Personal Statement is a full plate—envision a piece of chicken with sides of roast potatoes and string beans—the Statement of Purpose is just the meat, trimmed of any excess fat. Whereas the Personal Statement aims to give a holistic view of who you are, the Statement of Purpose should omit discussions of anything extraneous, like extracurricular activities that don’t directly relate to your academic or career interests. In the Personal Statement, you can weave a captivating yarn; in the Statement of Purpose, you should stay on the ball.
There’s a reason why many grad school applications require both: taken together, they should give a full picture of who you’ve been, who you are now, and who – professionally – you hope to become.
The process of applying to grad school is complex. At Collegiate Gateway, we are experienced in the nuances of the grad school admissions process. If you would like additional guidance, feel free to contact us and register for a free consultation – as always we’re happy to help!
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Statement of Purpose vs. Personal Statement:  Differences Between the Two
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In this article, we compare a statement of purpose vs a personal statement .
We also added six things to think about while writing your statement of purpose and six tips for writing a winning statement of purpose.
Table of Contents
What is a statement of purpose, what is a personal statement, what are the important differences between a statement of purpose and a personal statement, six points to consider when writing a statement of purpose, six steps to writing a winning statement of purpose.
It’s an essay written by an applicant, usually for a graduate program.
It aims to tell the admissions committee about your academic and professional goals, professional interests, and how they can provide value to the graduate program.
It can also be called a research statement or a letter of intent. It should be one to three pages long, depending on the program’s guidelines.
The statement of purpose should be written in a formal tone and should include a brief overview of the applicant’s educational and professional experience as well as any other information that makes them a good candidate for the course and a good fit for that specific program.
It’s an essay used by applicants to introduce themselves to an admissions committee, usually for an undergraduate degree.
Personal statements usually focus on the applicant’s identity, personality and skills.
These are often short narratives or stories that show why a particular candidate is right for a particular program.
You can also include personal and academic experiences, as well as explain your motivation and enthusiasm for the field you are applying for.
1. Statement of Purpose vs. Personal Statement: Format
Both are types of documents used to apply for graduate programs, however, a statement of purpose is more commonly used especially where research is involved.
The format of a Statement of Purpose is more formal and should highlight your academic strength and background, research interests, long-term goals, and why you are fit for that particular program.
A personal statement can be informal in format and should showcase your personal motivation for applying to that program or any achievements or challenges that you faced as well as learning from those experiences.
2. Statement of Purpose vs. Personal Statement: Purpose
Both statements are used to provide insight into the applicant’s personal background, academic/professional experience, and future goals.
The Statement of Purpose typically calls for greater emphasis on the applicant’s purpose for applying to graduate school as it relates to their interests, academic/professional experience, and future goals compared to a Personal Statement which may focus more on the applicant’s personal background or story.
3. Statement of Purpose vs. Personal Statement: Content
The main difference between the two types of statements is that a personal statement focuses more on who you are as an individual while a statement of purpose emphasizes what you want to study and what you plan to do with your degree.
Additionally, personal statements often include stories from applicants’ lives that help readers get to know them better, whereas statements of purpose usually don’t have this type of personalization in them.
4. Statement of Purpose vs. Personal Statement: Accomplishments
Both the statement of purpose and personal statement can highlight accomplishments and achievements.
However, the statement of purpose focuses more on how the student wants to enhance his/her professional profile through their time at university.
For example, it may mention specific fields of interest as well as incubators or membership of networks that will help build their professional base.
On the other hand, a personal statement tends to focus more on personal achievements rather than professional ones.
It usually highlights a student’s dedication towards a certain field or activity they have been involved in for some time now – such as volunteering or participating in competitions.
It also allows them to showcase any awards they may have won along with any other notable achievements related to their hobbies or interests outside school hours.
5. Statement of Purpose vs. Personal Statement: Creativity
Both a statement of purpose and a personal statement can be creative in their tone and structure.
A personal statement is usually more individual and informal than a statement of purpose which takes on a more traditional academic tone.
While both types of statements should focus on the author’s credentials and accomplishments, personal statements may also focus on other aspects such as relationships with others or life lessons learned along the way.
6. Statement of Purpose vs. Personal Statement: Resources & Tools
Both should be checked carefully but for a statement of purpose, you should use a writing guide and samples to be sure you are organising your writing in the correct way. These include:
- The Write Ivy PhD and Master’s Guide: This FREE (and helpful) guide will help you, step-by-step.
- Sample Statements of Purpose: These can provide inspiration for your own statement of purpose and help you understand the format and structure to write your own document.
- Writing Tips: Writing tips from experts can help guide you through the process of crafting a powerful statement of purpose that stands out from the rest!
- Grammar Checker/Spell Checker Software: It is important that your statement is written correctly in order for it to be taken seriously by admissions officers; grammar checkers/spell checkers can help with this task!
1. Goals: What do you want to achieve?
- Your goals and objectives: What do you hope to achieve after completing the program of study? Be specific and clearly outline your medium- and long-term goals.
- How the program fits with your career plans: Does the program suit your interests, professional goals, and academic background well? Will it provide opportunities for further specialization or research in your field of interest?
- The reputation of the college or university offering the program: do your research to be sure you’ll receive a quality education as well as a chance of a good job.
- How you will pay for it? Be sure to check out scholarships or financial aid available for this particular program.
2. Information: What do they need to know?
- Write concisely and clearly, with a focus on your career goals and objectives.
- Your strengths, achievements, and potential for success in your chosen field or profession.
- Your qualifications for the desired program of study.
- You should emphasize any relevant experience that would add value to your application package and future research.
3. Word Length: How long should it be?
It should usually be between 1-2 pages (single-space pages in 12-point font). Some schools may provide a word limit, in which case you must keep to it.
4. Type of Statement: Should it be a purpose or a personal statement?
A purpose and a personal statement both serve as an introduction to the candidate.
However, a purpose is more formal and objective, while a personal statement can be more creative, using a narrative style with the candidate’s voice.
Additionally, a purpose focuses on qualifications and accomplishments while a personal statement can reveal how the candidate got to where they are today.
A purpose is more traditionally academic in its tone and structure than a personal statement.
A personal statement can be less formal than a purpose and may start off with relevant quotes or clever opening lines to engage the audience right away.
Additionally, while both pieces should be proofread for grammar and spelling mistakes, they differ in that personal statements may have an additional layer of creativity not found in statements of purpose.
5. Writing Style: How should it be written?
- Make sure your statement of purpose is unique and focuses on your skills and achievements. Add concise detail to leave a lasting impression.
- Write in a more formal way: Ensure that your statement of purpose directly and clearly communicates your goals, motivations, and aspirations.
- Consider your audience: Before writing your statement of purpose, consider who will be reading it (for example, faculty members or admission officers) so that you can keep it focused, with relevant information about yourself or the subject you want to study
- Proofread carefully before submitting.
6. Writer’s Voice: What tone should be taken?
When writing a statement of purpose, it is important to focus on the positive (what you can do, what you want to learn) rather than gaps in your experience and skill set.
If you are adding example experiences to demonstrate your skills and suitability for the course, the story you choose should be interesting, with concise detail that will interest a reader.
Step 1: Explain why you want to pursue this graduate degree
When writing a statement of purpose for a graduate degree in business, it is important to explain why you are passionate about pursuing this degree, what inspires you to achieve your professional goals, and how the program aligns with your career aspirations.
Add motivating factors such as transitioning from the corporate world or completing an MBA to progress within your company.
Additionally, be sure to explain any relevant experience or qualifications that qualify you for admission into this program, with supporting data.
For example, ‘I trained new staff in using software to improve sales’ may be true, but ‘I trained 28 team members using the XYZ software package, and their sales increased 9.2% within a week’ is much better.
Step 2: Share your motivation and your dreams but be brief
- Start by brainstorming and writing down your goals and ambitions. What motivates you? What are your dreams?
- Identify your strengths (that will help you achieve these goals), as well as experience or skills that will be relevant.
Step 3: Define your research interests
- Identify your research interests: What are you interested in studying, and why? Which topics or questions are you hoping to explore?
- Name the professors at the school who you are interested in working with, explaining how their specialist research topics could fit in with your objectives. Do the same for any other programs such as work experience placements that are part of the course. For example, ‘I received an award for my presentation on the Hall Lock (used in anaesthesia) and am thrilled to have the opportunity to complete my work placement with Professor Hall’s team at Cardiff University, where this equipment was developed’.
- Provide specific examples of your interests related to the course. For example, if you’re applying for a PhD program in Clinical Psychology then it would be important to highlight what specific topics within clinical psychology interest you most (e.g., psychotherapy techniques) and why they resonate with your personal values/beliefs/experiences.
Step 4: Outline your strengths and suitability for the program
- Create an outline before you start writing the statement of purpose.
- Write down your thoughts in an organized manner and ensure that your essay is coherent.
- Find personal reasons that motivate you to apply for the program, then spend some time reflecting on what motivates you specifically for this course of study.
- Discuss any challenges that you have overcome in recent years to highlight your problem-solving abilities.
- Conclude on a positive note by assuring the admission committee that you can tackle any challenges ahead successfully.
Step 5: Show by example how you have achieved goals in the past
Showing by example how you have achieved goals in the past can help with writing a winning statement of purpose because it provides the admissions committee with an insight into your strengths and achievements.
You can also demonstrate that you have the determination and drive to succeed in this graduate program.
Additionally, these examples show that you are able to take initiative and make a positive impact on whatever situation or project you are involved in, building trust between yourself and the admissions committee.
Step 6: Follow all instructions!
- Check all the instructions and requirements for writing a statement of purpose.
- Follow all instructions to the letter, without trying to be smart or creative to get them.
- Once again, make sure that your essay meets six basic requirements: it should be concise, well-structured, coherently organized, grammatically correct and free from spelling mistakes, and coherently written in perfect academic English without any slang or typos.
- Make sure you have included all the necessary information such as name/surname/contact details/college applied to/date submitted etc., at the end of your essay before submitting it online or via an email attachment if instructed to do so by the admissions team.
FAQs – (Some of these are covered in more detail above)
What is the difference between a statement of purpose and a personal statement in terms of undergraduate and post-graduate programs.
Both a statement of purpose and a personal statement can be used for undergraduate admission or graduate/post-baccalaureate programs.
A statement of purpose usually places greater emphasis on an applicant’s reasons for applying to graduate school as it relates to their interests, academic/professional experience, and future goals.
A personal statement often calls for applicants to discuss their personal background (not necessarily academic or professional).
How long should a Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement be?
When writing a statement of purpose or personal statement, it is important to consider the length of the document.
Generally, both types of essays should be between 1-2 pages (single-space pages in 12-point font).
Some schools may provide a word limit, in which case you should strictly adhere to it. Brevity is key, so try to focus on only the most relevant information and make every word count.
What format should I use for a Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement?
The format for a statement of purpose or personal statement depends on the program you are applying to.
For graduate studies, business or law school, it is usually best to write in story form and use a more narrative style with your voice.
For medical programs, it is typically more formal and objective. Regardless of the program, you are applying for, it is important to proofread your essays for grammar and spelling before submitting them.
What are the requirements for a Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement?
The requirements for a Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement include:
- It should be well-written, coherent, and clear.
- It should be concise and focused on the topic at hand.
- It should address why you are applying to the program or university in question and why you would be a good fit for it.
- It should highlight relevant experiences, achievements, or skills that make you an ideal candidate for the program or university’s graduate degree program/scholarship/fellowship award/etc..
- It should demonstrate your ability to succeed in the chosen field of study by providing examples of past successes related to that field of study (e.g., research papers).
What strengths should I highlight in my Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement?
When writing a Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement, it is important to highlight your strengths. Some examples of strengths you can include are:
- Leadership skills
- Problem-solving abilities
- Dedication and perseverance
- Initiative and drive to succeed
- Communication skills
- Persuasive speaking abilities
- Multicultural understanding and awareness
How do I make sure my Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement stands out?
- Research the field you are applying to and find out what they are looking for in a statement of purpose or personal statement.
- Make sure your statement is personalized and focused on why you want to pursue that particular degree/field of study/career path, rather than just listing your qualifications and experience.
- Make sure it is concise, clear, and easy to read – use simple language that will not distract from the main message of your statement or bore the reader with unnecessary details or long sentences.
- Proofread carefully for any grammar or spelling mistakes before submitting it as this can make a bad impression on the admissions committee from the start!
- Make sure it has an interesting opening sentence or paragraph that will capture their attention right away; this could be something related to their field of study/research topic if possible since they will be more likely to take notice if they recognize what you’re referring to right away!
What resources are available to help me write my Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement?
There are a variety of resources available to help you write your Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement. These include:
- Sample statements and templates to guide you in composing your own statement
- Tips and advice from experts on how to write an effective statement
- Guidance on how to format and structure your document for maximum impact
- Resources such as dictionaries, thesauruses, and style guides for enhancing the quality of your writing
What mistakes should I avoid when writing my Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement?
When writing your Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement, you should avoid the following mistakes:
- Not clearly stating your purpose or goal in writing the statement.
- Using clichés or overused phrases in your statement. Phrases such as ‘I passed the exam with flying colours’ tend to come up quite regularly in statements so it’s better to write, ‘I received four A grades and achieved a 3.9 GPA’
- Trying to fit too much into one statement, results in it becoming convoluted and difficult to read and understand.
- Failing to proofread thoroughly for grammar and spelling errors before submitting your statement for review or acceptance into a program of study/scholarship/funding opportunity etc.
Is a personal statement the same as a statement of purpose?
A personal statement and a statement of purpose both provide an opportunity for applicants to introduce themselves and explain why they are qualified for the position they are applying for.
Both types of statements should be well-written, concise, and compelling.
Personal statements typically focus on an applicant’s background, accomplishments, skillset, and goals while the statement of purpose focuses more on what motivates the applicant to pursue a particular career path or program at a specific university or institution.
Personal statements are often used in applications for graduate school or scholarships whereas the statement of purpose is used more often in applications for jobs or internships.
When it comes down to the statement of purpose vs personal statement for grad school, how exactly are the two different—and how are they alike?
The statement of purpose is the more formal of the two essays, highlighting your academic/professional background and accomplishments, your future goals, and how you see yourself fitting in with the program you’re applying to.
By contrast, the personal statement is less formal and focuses more on who you are as a person, including what motivated you to apply to grad school (and this program) and what kinds of obstacles you’ve faced in life.
The way you approach each essay is also different: for a statement of purpose, consider your future goals; research the program and professors; explain how you’re a good match; emphasize accomplishments; while for a personal statement tell a story focus on your personal motivations to explain any weaknesses or challenges overcome
More Personal Statement Tutorials
- Guide to Writing a Winning Personal Statement for University