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Sample Scholarship Essays

If you’re applying for a scholarship, chances are you are going to need to write an essay. Very few
scholarship programs are based solely on an application form or transcript. The essay is often the most important
part of your application; it gives the scholarship committee a sense of who you are and your dedication to your
goals. You’ll want to make sure that your scholarship essay is the best it can possibly be.

See the sample essays:

  1. The Book that Made Me a Journalist
  2. Planners and Searchers
  3. Saving the Manatees

Unless specified otherwise, scholarship essays should always use the following formatting:

  • Double spaced
  • Times New Roman font
  • 12 point font
  • One-inch top, bottom, and side margins

Other useful tips to keep in mind include:

  1. Read the instructions thoroughly and make sure you completely understand them before you start writing.
  2. Think about what you are going to write and organize your thoughts into an outline.
  3. Write your essay by elaborating on each point you included in your outline.
  4. Use clear, concise, and simple language throughout your essay.
  5. When you are finished, read the question again and then read your essay to make sure that the essay addresses
    every point.

For more tips on writing a scholarship essay, check out
our Eight Steps Towards a Better Scholarship Essay .

The Book that Made Me a Journalist

Prompt: Describe a book that made a lasting
impression on you and your life and why.

It is 6 am on a hot
day in July and I’ve already showered and eaten
breakfast. I know that my classmates are all sleeping in and enjoying their summer break, but I don’t envy them; I’m excited to start my day interning with a local newspaper doing investigative journalism.
I work a
typical 8-5 day during my summer vacation and despite the early mornings, nothing has made me
happier. Although it wasn’t clear to me then, looking back on my high school experiences and everything that led to me to this internship,
believe this path began with a particularly savvy teacher and a little book she gave me to read outside of

I was taking a composition class, and we were learning how to write persuasive essays. Up until that point, I had
had average grades, but I was always a good writer and my teacher immediately recognized this. The first paper I
wrote for the class was about my experience going to an Indian reservation located near my uncle’s ranch in
southwest Colorado. I wrote of the severe poverty experienced by the people on the reservation, and the lack of
access to voting booths during the most recent election. After reading this short story, my teacher approached me
and asked about my future plans. No one had ever asked me this, and I wasn’t sure how to answer. I said I liked
writing and I liked thinking about people who are different from myself.

She gave me
a book and told me that if I had time to read it, she thought it would be something I would enjoy. I was
actually quite surprised that a high school teacher was giving me a book titled Lies My Teacher Told Me.

It had never occurred to me that teachers would lie to students. The title intrigued me so much that on Friday night
I found myself staying up almost all night reading, instead of going out with friends.

short, the book discusses several instances in which typical American history classes do not tell the whole
story. For example, the author addresses the way that American history classes do not usually address about
the Vietnam War, even though it happened only a short time ago. This made me realize that we hadn’t discussed the
Vietnam War in my own history class! The book taught me that, like my story of the Indian reservation, there are
always more stories beyond what we see on the surface and what we’re taught in school. I was inspired to continue to
tell these stories and to make that my career.

For my next article for the class, I wrote about the practice of my own high school suspending students, sometimes
indefinitely, for seemingly minor offenses such as tardiness and smoking. I found that the number of suspensions had
increased by 200% at my school in just three years, and also discovered that students who are suspended after only
one offense often drop out and some later end up in prison.

article caused quite a stir. The administration of my school dismissed it, but it caught the attention of my
local newspaper.

A local journalist worked with me to publish an updated and more thoroughly researched version of my article in the
local newspaper.

article forced the school board to revisit their “zero tolerance” policy as well as reinstate some indefinitely
suspended students.

won no favors with the administration and it was a difficult time for me, but it was also thrilling to see how
one article can have such a direct effect on people’s lives .

It reaffirmed my commitment to a career in journalism.

This is why I’m applying for this scholarship. Your organization has been providing young aspiring journalists with
funds to further their skills and work to uncover the untold stories in our communities that need to be reported. I
share your organization’s vision of working towards a more just and equitable world by uncovering stories of
abuse of power. I have already demonstrated this commitment through my writing in high school and I look
forward to pursuing a BA in this field at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. With your help, I will hone my
natural instincts and inherent writing skills. I will become a better and more persuasive writer and I will learn
the ethics of professional journalism.

I sincerely appreciate the committee’s time in evaluating my application and giving me the opportunity to tell my
story. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Scholarship Essay Do’s and Don’ts

Do:Follow the prompt and other instructions exactly. You might write a great essay but it may get your
application rejected if you don’t follow the word count guidelines or other formatting requirements.
DON’T:Open your essay with a quote. This is a well-worn strategy that is mostly used ineffectively. Instead of
using someone else’s words, use your own.
DON’T:Use perfunctory sentences such as, “In this essay, I will…”
DO:Be clear and concise. Make sure each paragraph discusses only one central thought or argument.
DON’T:Use words from a thesaurus that are new to you. You may end up using the word incorrectly and that will make
your writing awkward. Keep it simple and straightforward. The point of the essay is to tell your story, not
to demonstrate how many words you know.
Try Our Free Scholarship Search

Planners and Searchers

Prompt: In 600 words or less, please tell us
about yourself and why you are applying for this scholarship. Please be clear about how this scholarship will help
you achieve your personal and professional goals.

African, I recognize Africa’s need for home- grown talent in the form of “planners” (assistants with possible
solutions) and “searchers” (those with desperate need) working towards international development. I represent
both. Coming from Zimbabwe my greatest challenge is in helping to improve the livelihoods of developing
nations through sustainable development and good governance principles. The need for policy-makers capable of
employing cross-jurisdictional, and cross- disciplinary strategies to solve complex challenges cannot be
under-emphasized; hence my application to this scholarship program.

graduating from Africa University with an Honors degree in Sociology and Psychology, I am now seeking
scholarship support to study in the United States at the Master’s level . My
interest in democracy, elections, constitutionalism and development stems from my lasting interest in public
policy issues. Accordingly, my current research interests in democracy and ethnic diversity require a deeper
understanding of legal processes of constitutionalism and governance. As
a Master’s student in the US, I intend to write articles on these subjects from the perspective of someone born,
raised, and educated in Africa. I will bring a unique and much-needed perspective to my graduate program in
the United States, and I will take the technical and theoretical knowledge from my graduate program back with me to
Africa to further my career goals as a practitioner of good governance and community development.

To augment my theoretical understanding of governance and democratic practices, I
worked with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) as a Programs Assistant in the Monitoring and
Observation department. This not only enhanced my project management skills, but also developed my skills in
research and producing communication materials. ZESN is Zimbabwe’s biggest election observation
organization, and I
had the responsibility of monitoring the political environment and producing monthly publications on human
rights issues and electoral processes . These publications were disseminated to various civil society
organizations, donors and other stakeholders. Now I intend to develop my career in order to enhance Africa’s
capacity to advocate, write and vote for representative constitutions.

I also participated in a fellowship program at Africa University, where
I gained greater insight into social development by teaching courses on entrepreneurship, free market economics,
and development in needy communities . I worked with women in rural areas of Zimbabwe to setup
income-generating projects such as the jatropha soap-making project. Managing such a project gave me great insight
into how many simple initiatives can transform lives.

organization has a history of awarding scholarships to promising young students from the developing world in
order to bring knowledge, skills and leadership abilities to their home communities. I have already done some of
this work but I want to continue, and with your assistance, I can . The multidisciplinary focus of the
development programs I am applying to in the US will provide me with the necessary skills to creatively address the
economic and social development challenges and develop sound public policies for Third World countries. I thank you
for your time and consideration for this prestigious award.

Scholarship Essay Do’s and Don’ts

DO:Research the organization and make sure you understand their mission and values and incorporate them into
your essay.
DO:Focus on your strengths and turn in any problems or weaknesses into a success story.
DO:Use actual, detailed examples from your own life to backup your claims and arguments as to why you should
receive the scholarship.
DO:Proofread several times before finally submitting your essay.
DON’T:Rehash what is already stated on your resume. Choose additional, unique stories to tell sell yourself to the
scholarship committee.
DON’T:Simply state that you need the money. Even if you have severe financial need, it won’t help to simply ask
for the money and it may come off as tacky.
Try Our Free Scholarship Search

Saving the Manatees

Prompt: Please give the committee an idea of
who you are and why you are the perfect candidate for the scholarship.

It is a cliché to say that I’ve always known what I want to do with my life, but in my case it happens to be true.
I first visited Sea World as a young child, I fell in love with marine animals in general. Specifically, I felt
drawn to manatees. I was compelled by their placid and friendly nature. I knew then and there that I wanted to
dedicate my life to protecting these beautiful creatures.

that day in Orlando, I have spent much of my spare time learning everything there is to know about manatees.
As a junior high and high school student, I attempted to read scholarly articles on manatees from scientific
journals. I annoyed my friends and family with scientific facts about manatees– such as that they are close
relatives of elephants–at the dinner table. I watched documentaries, and even mapped their migration pattern on a
wall map my sister gave me for my birthday.

When I was chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in a summer internship with Sea World, I fell even more
in love with these gentle giants. I
also learned a very important and valuable lesson: prior to this internship, I had imagined becoming a marine
biologist, working directly with the animals in their care both in captivity and in the wild. However, during
the internship, I discovered that this is not where my strengths lie. Unfortunately, I am not a strong student
in science or math, which are required skills to become a marine biologist . Although this was a
disheartening realization, I
found that I possess other strengths can still be of great value to manatees and other endangered marine
mammals: my skills as a public relations manager and communicator . During the internship, I helped write new lessons and
presentations for elementary school groups visiting the park and developed a series of fun activities for
children to help them learn more about manatees as well as conservation of endangered species in general. I also
worked directly with the park’s conservation and communication director, and helped develop a new local outreach
program designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid hitting a manatee when boating . My supervisor
recommended me to the Save the Manatee Foundation so
in addition to my full-time internship at Sea World, I interned with the Save the Manatee Foundation
part-time . It was there that I witnessed the manatee rescue and conservation effort first hand, and worked
directly with the marine biologists in developing fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns. I
found that the foundation’s social media presence was lacking, and, using skills I learned from Sea World, I
helped them raise over $5,000 through a Twitter challenge, which we linked to the various social media outlets
of the World Wildlife Federation.

I know that your organization typically awards scholarships to students planning to major in disciplines
directly related to conservation such as environmental studies or zoology, I feel that the public relations side
of conservation is just as important as the actual work done on the ground . Whether it is reducing one’s
carbon footprint, or saving the manatees, these are efforts that, in order to be successful, must involve the larger
public. In fact, the relative success of the environmental movement today is largely due to a massive global public
relations campaign that turned environmentalism from something scientific and obscure into something that is both
fashionable and accessible to just about anyone. However, that success is being challenged more than ever
before–especially here in the US, where an equally strong anti-environmental public relations campaign has taken
hold. Therefore, conservationists need to start getting more creative.

I want to be a part of this renewed effort and use my natural abilities as a communicator to push back against the
rather formidable forces behind the anti-environmentalist movement. I sincerely hope you will consider supporting
this non-traditional avenue towards global sustainability and conservation. I
have already been accepted to one of the most prestigious communications undergraduate programs in the country
and I plan to minor in environmental studies . In addition, I maintain a relationship with my former
supervisors at Save the Manatee and Sea World, who will be invaluable resources for finding employment upon
graduation. I thank the committee for thinking outside the box in considering my application.

Scholarship Essay Do’s and Don’ts

DO:Tell a story. Discuss your personal history and why those experiences have led you to apply for these
DO:Write an outline. If you’ve already started writing or have a first draft, make an outline based on what
you’ve written so far. This will help you see whether your paragraphs flow and connect with one another.
DON’T:Write a generic essay for every application. Adapt your personal statement for each individual scholarship
DO:Run spellcheck and grammar check on your computer but also do your own personal check. Spellcheck isn’t
perfect and you shouldn’t rely on technology to make your essay perfect.
Try Our Free Scholarship Search
Sample Essays

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3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

Author Ellen McCammon Posted on Categories Grad School Tags applying to grad school , personal statements


Looking for grad school personal statement examples? Look no further! In this total guide to graduate school personal statement examples, we’ll discuss why you need a personal statement for grad school and what makes a good one. Then we’ll provide three graduate school personal statement samples from our grad school experts. After that, we’ll do a deep dive on one of our personal statement for graduate school examples. Finally, we’ll wrap up with a list of other grad school personal statements you can find online.


Why Do You Need a Personal Statement?

A personal statement is a chance for admissions committees to get to know you: your goals and passions, what you’ll bring to the program, and what you’re hoping to get out of the program. You need to sell the admissions committee on what makes you a worthwhile applicant. The personal statement is a good chance to highlight significant things about you that don’t appear elsewhere on your application.

A personal statement is slightly different from a statement of purpose (also known as a letter of intent). A statement of purpose/letter of intent tends to be more tightly focused on your academic or professional credentials and your future research and/or professional interests.

While a personal statement also addresses your academic experiences and goals, you have more leeway to be a little more, well, personal. In a personal statement, it’s often appropriate to include information on significant life experiences or challenges that aren’t necessarily directly relevant to your field of interest.

Some programs ask for both a personal statement and a statement of purpose/letter of intent. In this case, the personal statement is likely to be much more tightly focused on your life experience and personality assets while the statement of purpose will focus in much more on your academic/research experiences and goals.

However, there’s not always a hard-and-fast demarcation between a personal statement and a statement of purpose. The two statement types should address a lot of the same themes, especially as relates to your future goals and the valuable assets you bring to the program. Some programs will ask for a personal statement but the prompt will be focused primarily on your research and professional experiences and interests. Some will ask for a statement of purpose but the prompt will be more focused on your general life experiences.

When in doubt, give the program what they are asking for in the prompt and don’t get too hung up on whether they call it a personal statement or statement of purpose. You can always call the admissions office to get more clarification on what they want you to address in your admissions essay.

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This bird is ready to be both personal and purposeful.


What Makes a Good Grad School Personal Statement?

A great graduate school personal statement can come in many forms and styles. However, strong grad school personal statement examples all share the same following elements:


A Clear Narrative

Above all, a good personal statement communicates clear messages about what makes you a strong applicant who is likely to have success in graduate school. So to that extent, think about a couple of key points that you want to communicate about yourself and then drill down on how you can best communicate those points. (Your key points should of course be related to what you can bring to the field and to the program specifically).

You can also decide whether to address things like setbacks or gaps in your application as part of your narrative. Have a low GPA for a couple semesters due to a health issue? Been out of a job for a while taking care of a family member? If you do decide to explain an issue like this, make sure that the overall arc is more about demonstrating positive qualities like resilience and diligence than about providing excuses.


Specific Examples

A great statement of purpose uses specific examples to illustrate its key messages. This can include anecdotes that demonstrate particular traits or even references to scholars and works that have influenced your academic trajectory to show that you are familiar and insightful about the relevant literature in your field.

Just saying “I love plants,” is pretty vague. Describing how you worked in a plant lab during undergrad and then went home and carefully cultivated your own greenhouse where you cross-bred new flower colors by hand is much more specific and vivid, which makes for better evidence.


A Good Fit

A strong personal statement will describe why you are a good fit for the program, and why the program is a good fit for you. It’s important to identify specific things about the program that appeal to you, and how you’ll take advantage of those opportunities. It’s also a good idea to talk about specific professors you might be interested in working with. This shows that you are informed about and genuinely invested in the program.


Strong Writing

Even quantitative and science disciplines typically require some writing, so it’s important that your personal statement shows strong writing skills. Make sure that you are communicating clearly and that you don’t have any grammar and spelling errors. It’s helpful to get other people to read your statement and provide feedback. Plan on going through multiple drafts.

Another important thing here is to avoid cliches and gimmicks. Don’t deploy overused phrases and openings like “ever since I was a child.” Don’t structure your statement in a gimmicky way (i.e., writing a faux legal brief about yourself for a law school statement of purpose). The first will make your writing banal; the second is likely to make you stand out in a bad way.


Appropriate Boundaries

While you can be more personal in a personal statement than in a statement of purpose, it’s important to maintain appropriate boundaries in your writing. Don’t overshare anything too personal about relationships, bodily functions, or illegal activities. Similarly, don’t share anything that makes it seem like you may be out of control, unstable, or an otherwise risky investment. The personal statement is not a confessional booth. If you share inappropriately, you may seem like you have bad judgment, which is a huge red flag to admissions committees.

You should also be careful with how you deploy humor and jokes. Your statement doesn’t have to be totally joyless and serious, but bear in mind that the person reading the statement may not have the same sense of humor as you do. When in doubt, err towards the side of being as inoffensive as possible.

Just as being too intimate in your statement can hurt you, it’s also important not to be overly formal or staid. You should be professional, but conversational.


Boundaries are important.


Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

Our graduate school experts have been kind enough to provide some successful grad school personal statement examples. We’ll provide three examples here, along with brief analysis of what makes each one successful.


Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 1

PDF of Sample Personal Statement 1 – Japanese Studies

For this Japanese Studies master’s degree, the applicant had to provide a statement of purpose outlining her academic goals and experience with Japanese and a separate personal statement describing her personal relationship with Japanese Studies and what led her to pursue a master’s degree.

Here’s what’s successful about this personal statement:

  • An attention-grabbing beginning: The applicant begins with the statement that Japanese has never come easily to her and that it’s a brutal language to learn. Seeing as how this is an application for a Japanese Studies program, this is an intriguing beginning that makes the reader want to keep going.
  • A compelling narrative: From this attention-grabbing beginning, the applicant builds a well-structured and dramatic narrative tracking her engagement with the Japanese language over time. The clear turning point is her experience studying abroad, leading to a resolution in which she has clarity about her plans. Seeing as how the applicant wants to be a translator of Japanese literature, the tight narrative structure here is a great way to show her writing skills.
  • Specific examples that show important traits: The applicant clearly communicates both a deep passion for Japanese through examples of her continued engagement with Japanese and her determination and work ethic by highlighting the challenges she’s faced (and overcome) in her study of the language. This gives the impression that she is an engaged and dedicated student.

Overall, this is a very strong statement both in terms of style and content. It flows well, is memorable, and communicates that the applicant would make the most of the graduate school experience.


This makes me want to study in Japan.


Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 2

PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 2 – Musical Composition

This personal statement for a Music Composition master’s degree discusses the factors that motivate the applicant to pursue graduate study.

Here’s what works well in this statement:

  • The applicant provides two clear reasons motivating the student to pursue graduate study: her experiences with music growing up, and her family’s musical history. She then supports those two reasons with examples and analysis.
  • The description of her ancestors’ engagement with music is very compelling and memorable. The applicant paints her own involvement with music as almost inevitable based on her family’s long history with musical pursuits.
  • The applicant gives thoughtful analysis of the advantages she has been afforded that have allowed her to study music so extensively. We get the sense that she is insightful and empathetic—qualities that would add greatly to any academic community.

This is a strong, serviceable personal statement. And in truth, given that this for a masters in music composition, other elements of the application (like work samples) are probably the most important.  However, here are two small changes I would make to improve it:

  • I would probably to split the massive second paragraph into 2-3 separate paragraphs. I might use one paragraph to orient the reader to the family’s musical history, one paragraph to discuss Giacomo and Antonio, and one paragraph to discuss how the family has influenced the applicant. As it stands, it’s a little unwieldy and the second paragraph doesn’t have a super-clear focus even though it’s all loosely related to the applicant’s family history with music.
  • I would also slightly shorten the anecdote about the applicant’s ancestors and expand more on how this family history has motivated the applicant’s interest in music. In what specific ways has her ancestors’ perseverance inspired her? Did she think about them during hard practice sessions? Is she interested in composing music in a style they might have played? More specific examples here would lend greater depth and clarity to the statement.


Are you ready to compose…your personal statement?


Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 3

PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 3 – Public Health

This is my successful personal statement for Columbia’s Master’s program in Public Health. We’ll do a deep dive on this statement paragraph-by-paragraph in the next section, but I’ll highlight a couple of things that work in this statement here:

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  • This statement is clearly organized. Almost every paragraph has a distinct focus and message, and when I move on to a new idea, I move on to a new paragraph with a logical transitions.
  • This statement covers a lot of ground in a pretty short space. I discuss my family history, my goals, my educational background, and my professional background. But because the paragraphs are organized and I use specific examples, it doesn’t feel too vague or scattered.
  • In addition to including information about my personal motivations, like my family, I also include some analysis about tailoring health interventions with my example of the Zande. This is a good way to show off what kinds of insights I might bring to the program based on my academic background.


My public health recommendation: eat more fruits to get energy to do your personal statement!


Grad School Personal Statement Example: Deep Dive

Now let’s do a deep dive, paragraph-by-paragraph, on one of these sample graduate school personal statements. We’ll use my personal statement that I used when I applied to Columbia’s public health program.


Paragraph One: For twenty-three years, my grandmother (a Veterinarian and an Epidemiologist) ran the Communicable Disease Department of a mid-sized urban public health department. The stories of Grandma Betty doggedly tracking down the named sexual partners of the infected are part of our family lore. Grandma Betty would persuade people to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, encourage safer sexual practices, document the spread of infection and strive to contain and prevent it. Indeed, due to the large gay population in the city where she worked, Grandma Betty was at the forefront of the AIDS crises, and her analysis contributed greatly towards understanding how the disease was contracted and spread. My grandmother has always been a huge inspiration to me, and the reason why a career in public health was always on my radar.

This is an attention-grabbing opening anecdote that avoids most of the usual cliches about childhood dreams and proclivities. This story also subtly shows that I have a sense of public health history, given the significance of the AIDs crisis for public health as a field.

It’s good that I connect this family history to my own interests. However, if I were to revise this paragraph again, I might cut down on some of the detail because when it comes down to it, this story isn’t really about me. It’s important that even (sparingly used) anecdotes about other people ultimately reveal something about you in a personal statement.


Paragraph Two: Recent years have cemented that interest. In January 2012, my parents adopted my little brother Fred from China. Doctors in America subsequently diagnosed Fred with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). My parents were told that if Fred’s condition had been discovered in China, the (very poor) orphanage in which he spent the first 8+ years of his life would have recognized his DMD as a death sentence and denied him sustenance to hasten his demise.

Here’s another compelling anecdote to help explain my interest in public health. This is an appropriately personal detail for a personal statement—it’s a serious thing about my immediate family, but it doesn’t disclose anything that the admissions committee might find concerning or inappropriate.

If I were to take another pass through this paragraph, the main thing I would change is the last phrase. “Denied him sustenance to hasten his demise” is a little flowery. “Denied him food to hasten his death” is actually more powerful because it’s clearer and more direct.


Paragraph Three: It is not right that some people have access to the best doctors and treatment while others have no medical care. I want to pursue an MPH in Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia because studying social factors in health, with a particular focus on socio-health inequities, will prepare me to address these inequities. The interdisciplinary approach of the program appeals to me greatly as I believe interdisciplinary approaches are the most effective way to develop meaningful solutions to complex problems.

In this paragraph I make a neat and clear transition from discussing what sparked my interest in public health and health equity to what I am interested in about Columbia specifically: the interdisciplinary focus of the program, and how that focus will prepare me to solve complex health problems. This paragraph also serves as a good pivot point to start discussing my academic and professional background.


Paragraph Four: My undergraduate education has prepared me well for my chosen career. Understanding the underlying structure of a group’s culture is essential to successfully communicating with the group. In studying folklore and mythology, I’ve learned how to parse the unspoken structures of folk groups, and how those structures can be used to build bridges of understanding. For example, in a culture where most illnesses are believed to be caused by witchcraft, as is the case for the Zande people of central Africa, any successful health intervention or education program would of necessity take into account their very real belief in witchcraft.

In this paragraph, I link my undergraduate education and the skills I learned there to public health. The (very brief) analysis of tailoring health interventions to the Zande is a good way to show insight and show off the competencies I would bring to the program.


Paragraph Five: I now work in the healthcare industry for one of the largest providers of health benefits in the world. In addition to reigniting my passion for data and quantitative analytics, working for this company has immersed me in the business side of healthcare, a critical component of public health.

This brief paragraph highlights my relevant work experience in the healthcare industry. It also allows me to mention my work with data and quantitative analytics, which isn’t necessarily obvious from my academic background, which was primarily based in the social sciences.


Paragraph Six: I intend to pursue a PhD in order to become an expert in how social factors affect health, particularly as related to gender and sexuality. I intend to pursue a certificate in Sexuality, Sexual Health, and Reproduction. Working together with other experts to create effective interventions across cultures and societies, I want to help transform health landscapes both in America and abroad.

This final paragraph is about my future plans and intentions. Unfortunately, it’s a little disjointed, primarily because I discuss goals of pursuing a PhD before I talk about what certificate I want to pursue within the MPH program! Switching those two sentences and discussing my certificate goals within the MPH and then mentioning my PhD plans would make a lot more sense.

I also start two sentences in a row with “I intend,” which is repetitive.

The final sentence is a little bit generic; I might tailor it to specifically discuss a gender and sexual health issue, since that is the primary area of interest I’ve identified.


This was a successful personal statement; I got into (and attended!) the program. It has strong examples, clear organization, and outlines what interests me about the program (its interdisciplinary focus) and what competencies I would bring (a background in cultural analysis and experience with the business side of healthcare). However, a few slight tweaks would elevate this statement to the next level.


Fine-tuning will make your personal statement even more beautiful!


Graduate School Personal Statement Examples You Can Find Online

So you need more samples for your personal statement for graduate school? Examples are everywhere on the internet, but they aren’t all of equal quality.

Most of examples are posted as part of writing guides published online by educational institutions. We’ve rounded up some of the best ones here if you are looking for more personal statement examples for graduate school.


Penn State Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School

This selection of ten short personal statements for graduate school and fellowship programs offers an interesting mix of approaches. Some focus more on personal adversity while others focus more closely on professional work within the field.

The writing in some of these statements is a little dry, and most deploy at least a few cliches. However, these are generally strong, serviceable statements that communicate clearly why the student is interested in the field, their skills and competencies, and what about the specific program appeals to them.


Cal State Sample Graduate School Personal Statements

These are good examples of personal statements for graduate school where students deploy lots of very vivid imagery and illustrative anecdotes of life experiences. There are also helpful comments about what works in each of these essays.

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However, all of these statements are definitely pushing the boundaries of acceptable length, as all are above 1000 and one is almost 1500 words! Many programs limit you to 500 words; if you don’t have a limit, you should try to keep it to two single-spaced pages at most (which is about 1000 words).


University of Chicago Personal Statement for Graduate School Examples

These examples of successful essays to the University of Chicago law school cover a wide range of life experiences and topics. The writing in all is very vivid, and all communicate clear messages about the students’ strengths and competencies.

Note, however, that these are all essays that specifically worked for University of Chicago law school. That does not mean that they would work everywhere. In fact, one major thing to note is that many of these responses, while well-written and vivid, barely address the students’ interest in law school at all! This is something that might not work well for most graduate programs.


Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 10

This successful essay for law school from a Wheaton College undergraduate does a great job tracking the student’s interest in the law in a compelling and personal way. Wheaton offers other graduate school personal statement examples, but this one offers the most persuasive case for the students’ competencies. The student accomplishes this by using clear, well-elaborated examples, showing strong and vivid writing, and highlighting positive qualities like an interest in justice and empathy without seeming grandiose or out of touch.


Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 1

Based on the background information provided at the bottom of the essay, this essay was apparently successful for this applicant. However, I’ve actually included this essay because it demonstrates an extremely risky approach. While this personal statement is strikingly written and the story is very memorable, it could definitely communicate the wrong message to some admissions committees. The student’s decision not to report the drill sergeant may read incredibly poorly to some admissions committees. They may wonder if the student’s failure to report the sergeant’s violence will ultimately expose more soldiers-in-training to the same kinds of abuses. This incident perhaps reads especially poorly in light of the fact that the military has such a notable problem with violence against women being covered up and otherwise mishandled

It’s actually hard to get a complete picture of the student’s true motivations from this essay, and what we have might raise real questions about the student’s character to some admissions committees. This student took a risk and it paid off, but it could have just as easily backfired spectacularly.


I don’t recommend this. I also don’t recommend taking a big risk in your personal statement.


Key Takeaways: Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

In this guide, we discussed why you need a personal statement and how it differs from a statement of purpose. (It’s more personal!)

We also discussed what you’ll find in a strong sample personal statement for graduate school:

  • A clear narrative about the applicant and why they are qualified for graduate study.
  • Specific examples to support that narrative.
  • Compelling reasons why the applicant and the program are a good fit for each other.
  • Strong writing, including clear organization and error-free, cliche-free language.
  • Appropriate boundaries—sharing without over-sharing.

Then, we provided three strong graduate school personal statement examples for different fields, along with analysis. We did a deep-dive on the third statement.

Finally, we provided a list of other sample grad school personal statements online.


What’s Next?

Want more advice on writing a personal statement ? See our guide.

Writing a graduate school statement of purpose? See our statement of purpose samples  and a nine-step process for writing the best statement of purpose possible .

If you’re writing a graduate school CV or resume, see our how-to guide to writing a CV , a how-to guide to writing a resume , our list of sample resumes and CVs , resume and CV templates , and a special guide for writing resume objectives .

Need stellar graduate school recommendation letters ? See our guide.

See our 29 tips for successfully applying to graduate school .

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Author: Ellen McCammon

Ellen is a public health graduate student and education expert. She has extensive experience mentoring students of all ages to reach their goals and in-depth knowledge on a variety of health topics.
View all posts by Ellen McCammon

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3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

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