Personal Statement Advice

Writing the Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose for Graduate and Professional School Admissions

Graduate school statements may be used to assess your writing skills, so how you say something may be as important as what you say. Please work with faculty advisors and mentors when revising statements for graduate school. 

Content DO's

  • Write something that only you could honestly write
  • Mention who has influenced you and how
  • Be personal and anecdotal
  • Pose thoughtful questions
  • Know that details and description are appreciated
  • Title your paper
  • Speak of well-defined goals
  • Write about what you know and have observed and experienced
  • Show you have researched the school
  • If applicable, briefly mention that you are bad at standardized tests, but only if you have a history of testing poorly
  • If applicable, briefly describe why your grades aren’t the  greatest, but only if you had temporary problems and the grades have improved of late
  •  Let the committee know what it is in particular about their program that interests you

Style & Attitude DO's

  • Be positive
  • Always be honest
  • Write in an engaging and accessible manner
  • Show enthusiasm for your studies



      Mechanics DO's

  • Address the prompt
  • Display perfect spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Have at least 3 knowledgeable people read your statement and critique it (and don’t give it to them at the last minute)
  • Write a statement that is well-planned and well thought out



Content DON'Ts

  • Simply repeat your resume
  • Say what you think they want to hear
  • Be political or mention religion (unless you are applying to a religious college)
  • Use clichés (“I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer”)
  • Start with a quote 
  • Blatantly promote yourself. Instead of, “I’m intelligent and caring," describe scenes and events where you acted in an intelligent and caring manner
  • Mention popular songs, movies, TV shows
  • Write about book knowledge
  • Confuse this school with other schools you’ve applied to
  • Write an autobiography
  • Dwell on reasons why you don’t test well or have a less-than-stellar GPA


Style & Attitude DON'Ts

  • Make excuses, whine or play “poor me”
  • Come up with half-baked reasons for going to grad school
  • Don’t try to be funny (although genuine humor is appreciated)​


Mechanics DON'Ts

  • Submit your first draft
  • Go on too long


The above writing tips and suggestions were provided by Cal State LA Career Counselor, Lynne Osborne.

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