When you’re applying for a job or admission to an academic program, you may be asked to provide a personal statement. Written in your own voice, this essay is a departure from the other rigid, standardized information you’re required to submit during the application process. Learn how to write a personal statement that stands out and convinces the admissions or hiring committee that you’re worthy of the spot you want.
What is a personal statement?
A personal statement is a short essay that tells the reader more about you, outlines your goals, highlights your skills and achievements, and summarizes why you’re a strong fit for the program or job you’re applying for.
Personal statements are commonly found during the application process for degree programs and scholarships, but some employers ask for them as part of the job application. A personal statement for academic purposes is about three to four paragraphs long, whereas a personal statement for professional purposes is shorter, usually about a paragraph.
A personal statement differs from a cover letter in that it’s, well, personal. While a cover letter focuses on your accomplishments as they pertain to the job you want, a personal statement is more geared toward helping the reader get to know you as a person, including but not limited to your professional aspirations.
Why it’s important to send a personal statement
A personal statement helps catch the attention of the admission committee or hiring manager. They’re likely reviewing dozens or even hundreds of applications, so you need a way to show them your uniqueness. Your personal statement serves this purpose.
A personal statement also provides context beyond your resume. While your resume is useful for conveying the facts, like your major and the jobs you’ve held, it doesn’t drill down to what drives you. A personal statement communicates your goals, interests, and passions: the things that make you uniquely you.
When should you send a personal statement
When applying to a school
Personal statements are standard fare in the academic admissions process. Use yours to explain why you were drawn to this program and what objective you hope to achieve.
When seeking a scholarship
Many scholarship-awarding organizations are looking for applicants whose values align with theirs. A personal statement is a valuable tool to demonstrate how those values play a part in your life and brag a bit about your accomplishments.
When applying for a job
When using a personal statement as part of a job application, focus on standing out from the rest of the pack. This essay is a chance to show what sets you apart since the skills on your resume may be pretty similar to those of other candidates.
What to include in a personal statement
Start off by stating who you are and giving the reader a bit of background information on yourself.
Achievements to date
Share achievements that are relevant to the position you’re applying for, like degrees you’ve attained, dean’s list placements, an impressive GPA, or related jobs you’ve held.
State what makes you a good fit for this program or role. What skills do you have that will help you thrive?
Give your letter meaning by explaining where this program fits into your overall plan.
Finish strong with a powerful, concise statement that wraps up your essay.
What you should omit
Restating your resume
Your personal statement should provide information that’s not readily available in your resume, or at least expand upon what’s there.
While a personal statement is meant to help share what defines you, it’s not the place to write a tell-all about traumatic life experiences. Stick with uplifting anecdotes.
Sample personal statement
Dance has been an instrumental part of my life for as long as I can remember. I started ballet lessons at the age of two and have spent the best hours of my life in the studio since then. In 2022 I received my bachelor’s degree in dance from Montclair State University, and now it’s with great enthusiasm that I write to be considered for NYU’s master’s program for dance education.
During my lengthy dance career, I have spent many years as a resident and guest instructor at studios around the tri-state area, where I honed my organization and communication skills. My patience and creativity have served me well working with children ranging in age from toddler to teenager.
It’s my dream to help impressionable kids build self-esteem and avoid negative influences through their involvement with dance. I believe your program would be an invaluable stepping stone in making this dream a reality, and I look forward to your response.
The best personal statements are just that–personal. So whether you’re looking to land a job, further your education, or secure academic funding, speak from the heart and write in your own voice to show the reader a piece of your personality they can’t get from your resume alone.