Quick Guide to Personal Statements and Admissions Essays

Most graduate or professional school applications require a personal statement or an admissions essay of some sort.  Some may provide a specific prompt for you to answer, and others may simply ask you to write a personal statement or statement of purpose. 

What is the purpose of a personal statement?

In many cases this is your only opportunity to let the Admissions Committee know about you.  This is your chance to associate personal details with your name and to let them know how you would be an asset to their program.  This is also how admissions committee members get a sense of your written communication skills, which is important in all graduate and professional programs. 

What should be included in your personal statement?

An Admissions Committee is ultimately looking for students that will be academically and professionally successful.  Illustrate to them how you have been successful in the past.  Below are some suggestions to help you demonstrate this.

  • Tell the committee why you feel you will be successful within their program. 
  • Tell them why you are interested in their program specifically.
  • Use examples of obstacles and challenges you’ve overcome.
  • Tell them about research projects you have participated in.
  • Mention professors you have worked with, and what you have done with them.
  • Mention professors within their program that are in your area of interest.
  • Mention a research project that you would like to participate in.
  • Tell them your specific area of interest within their program.
  • Tell them your professional goals.
  • Tell them about any awards, scholarships, or honors you have received, and why.
  • Tell them about organizations you have been involved with, and what you have achieved in these organizations, regarding leadership roles, significant volunteer work, or group projects.

the profession you are seeking to enter can also be useful. They can speak to your professional performance and motivation.

How do I ensure my personal statement/essay is ready for the admissions committee?

After you feel you have a complete draft, it is best to walk away from it for a couple of days and then return to edit it with fresh eyes. 

  • Read the exact wording of the essay question again, to ensure you have answered it
  • Make sure everything you’ve written will make sense to someone who hasn’t met you
  • Double check that grammar and punctuation are correct throughout your writing sample
  • Ask yourself if you used the space to communicate why you would be a good fit and a successful student in the program you are applying to (yes, these should be altered for each application)
  • Ensure you are within the document length parameters given, if any, and that all questions were answered if you were given a prompt

After you have edited your own work, it is essential that you ask others to review your personal statement/admissions essay/statement of purpose. This could include reviews from faculty, the KU Writing Center, and/or the Engineering Career Center.  


Schedule an appointment with an ECC staff member to talk about applying to graduate/professional school and other career related questions.

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