Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a Personal Statement

Writing a personal statement for graduate school applications can feel like a daunting task for many student looking to continue their education. To start with – what even are personal statements? The goal of a personal statement is to demonstrate your unique qualifications to an admissions committee. It also illustrates your writing ability, creativity, and career goals. Admissions committee members look for interesting, insightful, and non-generic personal statements that provide concrete evidence of your competence and motivation. Continue reading below for some helpful Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to writing a personal statement.


  • Follow the directions of the prompt provided to you (if provided)!!
  • Aim for depth, not breadth.
  • Use readable fonts, conventional spacing, and margins.
  • You may mention specific faculty with whom you would like to work with and/or specific reasons for applying to each program.
  • Focus on one or two specific themes and discuss related experiences.
  • Connect life experiences to your professional goals and career motivation. Articulate short and long-term career goals clearly.
  • Create a conclusion that refers back to your introduction and ties your points together.
  • Select people whom you trust to read and provide feedback on your personal statement, especially if English is not your primary language. The Office of Career Education can help guide you and provide feedback before you apply to graduate programs in one-on-one appointments!


  • Submit the exact same essay to multiple schools.
  • Exceed word and/or page limits.
  • Write a clichéd introduction or conclusion (e.g., “my passion…”).
  • Cram too much information into the essay.
  • Discuss potentially controversial topics (e.g., politics or religion).
  • Include extraneous materials (e.g., addendums to applications, videotapes, or audiotapes) unless specifically asked.
  • Remind the school of its ranking or tell them “how good they are.”
By Maeghan Myers
Maeghan Myers Graduate Student Assistant