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Writing the Personal Statement

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This handout provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions.

The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories:

1. The general, comprehensive personal statement:

This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms.

2. The response to very specific questions:

Often, business and graduate school applications ask specific questions, and your statement should respond specifically to the question being asked. Some business school applications favor multiple essays, typically asking for responses to three or more questions.

Questions to ask yourself before you write:

  • What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
  • What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
  • When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
  • How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
  • If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
  • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
  • What personal characteristics (for example, integrity, compassion, and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
  • What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
  • Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants?
  • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?

General advice

Answer the questions that are asked

  • If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar.
  • Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. In every case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked.

Tell a story

  • Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.

Be specific

  • Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.

Find an angle

  • If you're like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or a "hook" is vital.

Concentrate on your opening paragraph

  • The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement.

Tell what you know

  • The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Too many people graduate with little or no knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession or field they hope to enter. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you've read, seminars you've attended, or any other source of specific information about the career you want and why you're suited to it. Since you will have to select what you include in your statement, the choices you make are often an indication of your judgment.

Don't include some subjects

  • There are certain things best left out of personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school or earlier are generally not a good idea. Don't mention potentially controversial subjects (for example, controversial religious or political issues).

Do some research, if needed

  • If a school wants to know why you're applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.

Write well and correctly

  • Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.

Avoid clichés

  • A medical school applicant who writes that he is good at science and wants to help other people is not exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements.

For more information on writing a personal statement, see the personal statement vidcast .

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What is a career statement, and should you write one?

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What is a career statement?

Why are career statements important, how to write a career statement, career statement examples.

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There’s value in living in the present. Checking off a list of to-dos. But when you take each moment as it comes, never turning your attention to the future, the days — and your career — grow stagnant.

Writing a career statement can help.

We know we’re throwing another assignment on your plate when it’s already full. But writing this statement isn’t time-consuming and will help you progress toward real growth.

And if you haven’t taken the time to write down your professional goals, a career goal statement is a good exercise to tackle before jumping in on your career statement.

This might sound like too much work, but it’s well worth it. Studies have shown people who write down their goals are 76% likely to achieve them versus 43% for those who don’t . Dedicating a little time to writing a goal statement today can go a long way toward bettering your tomorrow.

We’ll make it easier with a template. But first, let’s look at what exactly a career statement is — and why we think it’s a valuable tool for professionals.

Think of your career statement as an aspiration statement tailored to your professional goals. Aspiration statements express what you’re hoping to achieve in the future and describe your vision for the next chapter of your life. 

Think of them as the end of your life plan: your statement should highlight your dreams, encourage your ambitions, and provide an ideal outcome for your action plan. It’s a few sentences or a short paragraph outlining what you want to accomplish in the future.

Sounds simple enough, right? For career statements, you’re focusing those aspirations on your professional goals and intended career path. A career statement demands you to research what you need to accomplish those goals, as it depends on specific information. It needs specific dates, desired job titles or companies, locations, skills required, and more. 

(D2C) BetterUp Blog - elevate potential_half size_v1

Career statements keep your objectives top of mind. They never let you lose sight of your long-term goals and why you want to achieve them. Thanks to this focus, a career statement helps you visualize your career path, like a roadmap to success.

Writing a career statement can help you tackle three of the resources key to achieving your goals: 

  • Motivation: What will make you spring out of bed and continue putting in a consistent effort? Increasing your motivation fuels your need to make your career aspirations a reality.
  • Direction: How do you see yourself developing your career ? Do you need to go back to school, move to another city, or network more? Direction gives you a clear understanding of the moves you need to make to achieve your goals.
  • Accountability: Goals are great, but who’s holding you to them? Fostering accountability will keep your professional development goals top of mind and help you stay dedicated to them. 

Confident-mid-adult-businesswoman-writing-new-ideas-onto-a-adhesive-note-career-statement

There’s beauty in this journey. Goal-setting can reveal things you didn’t know about yourself, teaching you new skills and helping your well-being along the way. It’s been linked to:

  • Higher motivation and ambition to succeed
  • Stronger resilience
  • Higher self-esteem 
  • Greater self-confidence
  • More independence and autonomy

Career statements and goal setting go hand in hand. They build off each other to help you turn your dreams into your reality. 

You’re not likely to knock out your career statement in five minutes. It takes time — depending on how clearly defined your career goals are. Don’t rush the process.

If you run into writer's block or can't decide what goals you want to set , take a break. You might find time for a self-discovery journey to help you understand where you’d like your life to go.

Planning out your career doubles as a great self-discovery technique , too: you can ask yourself what you’d like your work-life balance to be, if you want to work remotely, where you want to live, if you want to be a manager, and more.  

When you’re ready to begin, follow these six steps:

1. Think about your passions and purpose

Your passions and purpose guide your life. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted two-thirds of US employees to reflect on their life’s purpose , with 70% of respondents reporting their purpose is tied to their work. Passions and purpose are a great place first place to look to help identify what goals you want to accomplish.

Example: “My passion is storytelling and writing.”

Happy-young-woman-making-a-ceramic-pot-in-a-workshop-career-statement

2. Do plenty of research

This step won’t take long if you’re already clear on what you want. But if you have no idea what professional aspirations will enrich your life, dedicate time to research.

Reach out to people in your network for a chat. Expand your knowledge about your industry, learn the requirements for the jobs that interest you, and familiarize yourself with potential roadblocks. Research will give you the knowledge you need for the planning and execution stages.

Example: “I’m interested in writing a fictional novel and working with a local publisher.”

3. Test the waters 

This is a time for curiosity, intentionality, and reflection. Put your research to the test. If you want to change careers, go to a seminar about your target industry. You might be bored to tears, which could indicate you need to modify your plans.

Ask yourself questions along the way — are you staying engaged with the topics you’re learning about? How do your body and mind feel as you turn in this new direction?

Example: “I’ve written a storyboard, and it’s made me feel excited and motivated, so I’d like to continue and take the next step.”

4. Use the SMART goal template

The SMART goals model will help you set realistic goals . SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. This model provides a template that keeps you organized and lets you visualize your goals more clearly.

You should have a pretty good handle on your goals by now. And if you find that your initial goal doesn't work well after listing the different elements, don’t be afraid to make changes — without adaptability, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. As you grow and move down your career path, your goals might shift. That’s perfectly fine. 

Example: “I plan on pitching a 300-page novel by the end of this month to three different publishers in my community. I’ll pitch my novel to their fiction team and take notes when they provide any feedback.”

Shot-of-a-young-businessman-leading-a-brainstorming-session-career-statement

5. Solidify your action plan

So you’ve explored the things that matter to you, spent time researching and experimenting, and defined your goals. Now, it's time to make a solid action plan. Take a moment to think about each step you'll take. Do you need to further your education, work on your communication skills, or find a mentor?

Planning ahead has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and make responsibilities feel less overwhelming . Mapping out your steps will eliminate potential stressors and procrastination. 

Example: “I’m going to create a timeline for myself to write the novel, including the brainstorming, writing, and revising process. This will help keep me on pace and focused on each section as it comes.”

6. Make adjustments when needed

You've put tons of effort into creating an actionable, well-thought-out career statement. But sometimes life throws a curve ball. Challenges arise, obstacles you may have no control over.

Adopt a growth mindset that welcomes learning from your mistakes and changing your plan when necessary. Adapting to change will help you achieve your goals, not hinder them. 

Example: “My pitch hasn’t been picked up by any of the publishers I’ve pitched my story to, so I’m widening my circle to publishers from other communities. I’ve learned from my network to be more specific with my pitches and to explain more about myself.”

Career statements differ depending on your goals, industry, and lifestyle. Your life purpose could be tied to working with nonprofit organizations or climbing the ladder in the tech industry. Whatever your professional aspirations, your career statement should reflect them.

Handsome-Latino-man-is-sitting-at-a-desk-and-writing-career-statement

Here are three career statement examples to inspire you:

  • I’ll be a full-time writer in two years. I'll start as a freelance writer and build up my portfolio, expand my network, and tune in to workshops and seminars about writing. I'll dedicate 30 minutes each week to reading great pieces of writing, and I'll be ready to do some problem-solving when editors give me feedback. 
  • I'm going to be my own boss and open a café next year. I’ll create a welcoming new culture within my café that values kindness, compassion, and respect. I'll further my existing business knowledge by taking marketing classes and talking to people within my industry about the financial costs of entrepreneurship.
  • I'll be promoted to sales manager within two years. I'll focus on improving my leadership and communication skills by listening to feedback from my manager. I'll also continue to learn more about sales since it's my big interest and passion and become familiar with my soon-to-be managerial responsibilities.

Start writing 

We’ve outlined the steps and benefits of writing a career statement. Now it’s time to invest in your future and start writing. 

When you’re happy with your career statement, put it somewhere you'll notice each day. If you wrote it up by hand or printed out a copy, stick it on your fridge or bathroom mirror, or hang it above your desk.

If you went digital, set your statement as your phone’s lock screen. Keep it close. It'll remind you of what you're working toward — and what you’ve already achieved by putting your goals and plans into words.

Give your statement another read when you're feeling down or unmotivated. They're yours for the taking.

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Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

Do goal statements actually work? Find out here

10 personal brand statements to put all eyes on you, effective problem statements have these 5 components, stand out to your hiring panel with a personal value statement, how to craft an impactful company mission statement, life purpose: the inspiration you need to find your drive, are you being passed over for a promotion here’s what to do, 4 steps to create a personal vision statement and change your life, professional development is for everyone (we’re looking at you), similar articles, how to write a leave of absence letter (plus template), writing a value statement: your guide to keeping your team aligned, habit stacking: what it is and 5 examples, purpose, mission, vision: what drives what, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..

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StandOut CV

CV personal statement examples

Andrew Fennell photo

If you want to secure job interview, you need a strong personal statement at the top of your CV.

Your CV personal statement is a short paragraph which sits at the very top of your CV – and it’s aim is to summarise the benefits of hiring you and encourage employers to read your CV in full.

In this guide I have included 17 CV personal statement examples from a range of professions and experience levels, plus a detailed guide of how to write your own personal statement that will get you noticed by employers

CV templates 

17 CV personal statement examples

To start this guide, I have included 10 examples of good personal statements, to give you an idea of how a personal statement should look , and what should be included.

Note: personal statements are generally used by junior candidates – if you are experienced, check out our CV profile examples instead.

Graduate CV personal statement (no experience)

Graduate with no experience CV personal statement

Although this  graduate has no paid work experience, they compensate for it by showcasing all of the skills and knowledge the have gained during their studies, and demonstrating how they apply their knowledge in academic and personal projects.

When you have little or no experience, it’s important to draw out transferable workplace skills from your studies and extracurricular work, to showcase them to employers.

Graduate CV personal statement (part time freelance experience)

Graduate with part time freelance experience CV personal statement

This candidate has graduated with a degree in biochemistry but actually wants to start a career in digital marketing after providing some digital freelance services to fund their studies.

In this case, they haven’t made much mention of their studies because they aren’t relevant to the digital marketing agencies they are applying to. Instead they have focused their personal statement around their freelance work and passion for the digital field – although they still mention the fact they are degree educated to prove their academic success.

CV builder

School leaver CV personal statement (no experience)

School leaver with no experience CV personal statement

This candidate is 16 years old and has no work experience whatsoever, but they compensate for this by detailing their academic achievements that relate to the roles they are applying for (maths and literacy are important requirements in finance and accountancy roles).

They also add some info on their extracurricular activities and school work-placements, to strengthen this student CV further.

    Top tips for writing a CV personal statement

  • Thoroughly research the jobs and companies you are planning to apply for to identify the type of candidate they are looking for – try to reflect that in your personal statement
  • Don’t be afraid to brag a little – include some of your most impressive achievements from education, work or personal life
  • Focus on describing the benefits an employer will get from hiring you. Will you help them to get more customers? Improve their workplace? Save them time and money?
  • If you have no work experience, demonstrate transferable workplace skills from your education, projects, or even hobbies

School leaver CV personal statement (part time experience)

School leaver with part time experience CV personal statement

Although this person has only just left school, they have also undertaken some part-time work in a call centre alongside their studies.

To make the most of this experience, they have combined their academic achievements with their workplace exposure in this personal statement.

By highlighting their GCSE results, summer programme involvement, work experience and expressing their ambitions to progress within sales, this candidate really makes an appealing case for hiring them.

College leaver CV personal statement (no experience)

College leaver with no experience CV personal statement

This candidate has left college with good grades, but does not yet have any work experience.

To compensate for the lack of workplace exposure, they have made their A level results prominent and highlighted skills and experience which would benefit the employers they are targeting.

Any recruiter reading this profile can quickly understand that this candidate has great academic achievements, a passion for IT and finance and the ability to transfer their skills into an office environment.

College student CV personal statement (freelance experience)

College student with freelance experience CV personal statement

As this student has picked up a small amount of freelance writing work during their studies, they have made sure to brag about it in their personal statement.

They give details on their relevant A level studies to show the skills they are learning, and boost this further by highlighting the fact that they have been applying these skills in a real-life work setting by providing freelance services.

They also include key action verbs that recruiters will be looking for , such as creative writing, working to deadlines, and producing copy.

Academic CV personal statement

Academic CV personal statement

Aside from junior candidates, the only other people who might use a personal statement, are academic professionals; as their CV’s tend to be more longer and detailed than other professions.

This candidate provides a high level overview of their field of study, length of experience, and the roles they have held within universities.

School leaver CV personal statement with and sports experience

School leaver with part time experience CV personal statement

Although this person has no work experience, they are still able to show employers the value of hiring them by selling their other achievements and explaining how they could benefit an organisation.

They expand on their sports club involvement to demonstrate their teamwork, leadership skills, communication and motivation, which are all important traits in the workplace, and will be looked upon favourably by recruiters and hiring managers.

They also draw upon their future plans to study business studies and take a part time job, to further prove their ambition and dedication.

History graduate CV personal statement

History graduate CV personal statement

This history graduate proves their aptitude for both academic achievement and workplace aptitude by showcasing valuable skills from their degree and voluntary work.

They do this by breaking down the key requirements for each and showing how their skills could be beneficial for future employers, such as listening, communication, and crisis management.

They also describe how their ability to balance studies alongside voluntary work has not only boosted their knowledge and skills, but also given excellent time management and organisational skills – which are vital assets to any employer.

Law graduate CV personal statement

Law graduate CV personal statement

This legal graduate makes the most from their work university work placements by using it to bulk out the contents of their CV personal statement.

They include their degree to show they have the necessary qualifications for legal roles, which is crucial, but more importantly, they showcase how they applied their legal skills within a real-life work setting.

They give a brief overview of the types of legal professionals they have been working alongside and the type of work they have been carrying out – this is all it takes to get the attention of recruiters and show employers they have what it takes to fulfil roles in the legal sector.

Medical student CV personal statement

Medical student CV personal statement

This medical student proves their fit for the role by showcasing the key skills they have gained from their studies and their work experience placements.

In just these few sentences, they are able to highlight the vast amount of experience they have across different disciplines in the industry, something which is particularly important in the medical sector.

As they have not graduated yet and are still studying, they have provided proof of their most recent grades. This can give the recruiter some indication as to the type of grade they could be graduating with in the near future.

Masters student CV personal statement

Masters student CV personal statement

This masters student has started by specifying their area of study, in this case, accounting, and given details about the specific areas of finance they are most interested in. This can hint towards their career goals and passions.

They have then carefully listed some of the key areas of accounting and finance that they are proficient in. For example, business finance, advanced corporate finance and statistics.

They have also outlined some of the transferable skills needed for accounting roles that employers will be looking out for, such as communication, attention to detail and analytical skills.

Finance student CV personal statement

Finance student CV personal statement

As this finance student has recently undertaken some relevant work experience, they’ve made sure to shout about this in their personal profile.

But more than this, they have included a list of some of the important finance skills they gained as a result of this work experience – for example, financial reporting, processing invoices and month-end reconciliations.

Plus, through power words and phrases such as ‘prevent loss’ and ‘ improve upon accuracy and efficiency’, they have also showcased how they can apply these skills in a workplace setting to benefit the potential employer.

Internship  CV personal statement

Internship CV personal statement

This digital marketing professional has started their personal profile by outlining their most relevant qualifications and work experience, most notably their freelance role as a content manager.

They have also provided examples of some of the key marketing skills that potential employers might be looking for, including very detailed examples of the platforms and tools they are proficient in – for example, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest.

They have then closed their statement by giving a detailed description of the type of role or opportunity they are looking for. In this case, an in-house position in a marketing company.

Graduate career changer personal statement

Graduate career changer CV personal statement

Switching careers as a graduate can be tough. Especially when it comes to writing a personal statement that will attract employers in your new chosen field.

This candidate is looking to move from history teaching into journalism, so they have created a statement which briefly mentions their current workplace, but mainly focuses on highlighting transferable skills which are relevant to journalism. They achieve this by discussing the writing skills they use in their current role, and mentioning their hobby of writing – including some publications they have been featured in for extra brownie points.

Business management graduate personal statement

Business management graduate CV personal statement

This business management proves their ability to work within a junior business management position by swiftly highlighting their impressive degree (to ensure it is not missed) and summarising some of the real-life experience they have gained in management during their university placements and volunteering. They do not let their lack of paid work experience, stop them demonstrating their valuable skills.

PhD graduate

PhD graduate CV personal statement

PhD graduate roles attract a lot of competition, so it’s important that your CV contains a personal statement that will quickly impress and attract recruiters.

This candidate provides a short-but-comprehensive overview of their academic achievements, whilst demonstrating their exceptional level of knowledge in research, languages and publication writing.

By highlighting a number of skills and abilities that are in high-demand in the academic workplace, this CV is very likely to get noticed and land interviews.

How to write a personal statement for your CV

Now that you’ve seen what a personal statement should look like and the type of content it should contain, follow this detailed guide to one for your own CV – and start racking those interviews up.

Guide contents

What is a CV personal statement?

Cv personal statement or cv profile, personal statement format, what to include in a cv personal statement.

  • Personal statement mistakes

How to write persuasively

A personal statement is a short paragraph at the top of your CV which gives employers an overview of your education, skills and experience

It’s purpose is to capture the attention of busy recruiters and hiring managers when your CV is first opened – encouraging them to read the rest of it.

You achieve this by writing a tailored summary of yourself that explains your suitability for the roles you are applying for at a very high level, and matches your target job descriptions .

Personal statement positioning

One question candidates often ask me is , “what is the difference between a personal statement and a CV profile?”

To be honest, they are almost the same – they are both introductory paragraphs that sit at the top of your CV… but there are 2 main differences

A personal statement tends to be used more by junior candidates (graduates, school leavers etc.) and is relatively long and detailed.

A CV profile tends to be favoured by more experienced candidates , and is shorter in length than a personal statement.

Personal statement VS Profile

Note: If you are an experienced candidate, you may want to switch over to my CV profile writing guide , or example CV profiles page.

To ensure you grab recruiters’ attention with your personal statement, lay it out in the following way.

Positioning

You need to ensure that your personal statement sits at the very top of your CV, and all of it should be totally visible to readers, without the need to scroll down the page.

Do this by reducing the top page margin and minimising the space taken up by your contact details.

 Margins

This will ensure that your whole personal statement can be seen, as soon as your CV is opened.

We have a Word CV template which can help you to get this right.

Size/length

Your personal statement needs to contain enough detail to provide an introduction to your skills and knowledge, but not so much detail that it bores readers.

To strike the right balance, anything between 8-15 lines of text is perfect – and sentences should be sharp and to-the-point.

As with the whole of your CV or resume , your personal statement should be written in a simple clean font at around size 10-12 to ensure that it can be read easily by all recruiters and employers.

Keep the text colour simple , ensuring that it contrasts the background (black on white is best) and break it into 2 or even 3 paragraphs for a pleasant reading experience.

It should also be written in a punchy persuasive tone, to help you sell yourself and increase your chances of landing interviews , I cover how to do this in detail further down the guide.

Quick tip: A poorly written CV will fail to impress recruiters and employers. Use our quick-and-easy CV Builder to create a winning CV in minutes with professional CV templates and pre-written content for every industry.

Once you have the style and format of your personal statement perfected, you need to fill it with compelling content that tells recruiters that your CV is worth reading.

Here’s what needs to go into your personal statement…

Before you start writing your personal statement, it’s crucial that you research your target roles to find out exactly what your new potential employers are looking for in a candidate.

Run a search for your target jobs on one of the major job websites , look through plenty of adverts and make a list of the candidate requirements that frequently appear.

Job research for CV

This research will show you exactly what to include in your personal statement in order to impress the recruiters who will be reading it.

Education and qualifications are an important aspect of your personal statement, especially if you are a junior candidate.

You should highlight your highest and most relevant qualifications, whether that is a degree, A levels or GCSEs. You could potentially go into some more detail around modules, papers etc. if they are relevant to the roles you are applying for.

It’s important that you discuss the experience you have gained in your personal statement, to give readers an idea of the work you are comfortable undertaking.

This can of course be direct employed work experience, but it doesn’t have to be.

You can also include:

  • School/college Uni work placements
  • Voluntary work
  • Personal projects
  • Hobbies/interests

As with all aspects of your CV , the content should be tailored to match the requirements of your target roles.

Whilst discussing your experience, you should touch upon skills used, industries worked in, types of companies worked for, and people you have worked with.

Where possible, try to show the impact your actions have made. E.g . A customer service agent helps to make sales for their employer.

Any industry-specific knowledge you have that will be useful to your new potential employers should be made prominent within your personal statement.

For example

  • Knowledge of financial regulations will be important for accountancy roles
  • Knowledge of IT operating systems will be important for IT roles
  • Knowledge of the national curriculum will be important for teachers

You should also include some information about the types of roles you are applying for, and why you are doing so. Try to show your interest and passion for the field you are hoping to enter, because employers want to hire people who have genuine motivation and drive in their work.

This is especially true if you don’t have much work experience, as you need something else to compensate for it.

CV personal statement mistakes

The things that you omit from your personal statement can be just as important as the things you include.

Try to keep the following out of your personal statement..

Irrelevant info

Any information that doesn’t fall into the requirements of your target roles can be cut out of your personal statement. For example, if you were a professional athlete 6 years ago, that’s great – but it won’t be relevant if you’re applying to advertising internships, so leave it out.

Generic clichés

Cliches in CV

If you are describing yourself as a “ dynamic team player with high levels of motivation and enthusiasm” you aren’t doing yourself any favours.

These cliché terms are vastly overused and don’t provide readers with any factual details about you – so keep them to a minimum.

Stick to solid facts like education, skills , experience, achievements and knowledge.

If you really want to ensure that your personal statement makes a big impact, you need to write in a persuasive manner.

So, how do you so this?

Well, you need to brag a little – but not too much

It’s about selling yourself and appearing confident, without overstepping the mark and appearing arrogant.

For example, instead of writing.

“Marketing graduate with an interest in entering the digital field”

Be creative and excite the reader by livening the sentence up like this,

“Marketing graduate with highest exam results in class and a passion for embarking on a long and successful career within digital”

The second sentence is a much more interesting, makes the candidate appear more confident, throws in some achievements, and shows off a wider range of writing skills.

Quick tip: A poorly written CV will fail to impress recruiters and employers. Use our quick-and-easy CV Builder to create a winning CV in minutes with professional templates and pre-written content for every industry.

Your own personal statement will be totally unique to yourself, but by using the above guidelines you will be able to create one which shows recruiters everything they need.

Remember to keep the length between 10-20 lines and only include the most relevant information for your target roles.

You can also check our school leaver CV example , our best CV templates , or our library of example CVs from all industries.

Good luck with the job hunt!

example of career personal statement

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How to Write a Strong Personal Statement

  • Ruth Gotian
  • Ushma S. Neill

example of career personal statement

A few adjustments can get your application noticed.

Whether applying for a summer internship, a professional development opportunity, such as a Fulbright, an executive MBA program, or a senior leadership development course, a personal statement threads the ideas of your CV, and is longer and has a different tone and purpose than a traditional cover letter. A few adjustments to your personal statement can get your application noticed by the reviewer.

  • Make sure you’re writing what they want to hear. Most organizations that offer a fellowship or internship are using the experience as a pipeline: It’s smart to spend 10 weeks and $15,000 on someone before committing five years and $300,000. Rarely are the organizations being charitable or altruistic, so align your stated goals with theirs
  • Know when to bury the lead, and when to get to the point. It’s hard to paint a picture and explain your motivations in 200 words, but if you have two pages, give the reader a story arc or ease into your point by setting the scene.
  • Recognize that the reviewer will be reading your statement subjectively, meaning you’re being assessed on unknowable criteria. Most people on evaluation committees are reading for whether or not you’re interesting. Stated differently, do they want to go out to dinner with you to hear more? Write it so that the person reading it wants to hear more.
  • Address the elephant in the room (if there is one). Maybe your grades weren’t great in core courses, or perhaps you’ve never worked in the field you’re applying to. Make sure to address the deficiency rather than hoping the reader ignores it because they won’t. A few sentences suffice. Deficiencies do not need to be the cornerstone of the application.

At multiple points in your life, you will need to take action to transition from where you are to where you want to be. This process is layered and time-consuming, and getting yourself to stand out among the masses is an arduous but not impossible task. Having a polished resume that explains what you’ve done is the common first step. But, when an application asks for it, a personal statement can add color and depth to your list of accomplishments. It moves you from a one-dimensional indistinguishable candidate to someone with drive, interest, and nuance.

example of career personal statement

  • Ruth Gotian is the chief learning officer and assistant professor of education in anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City and the author of  The Success Factor . She was named the world’s #1 emerging management thinker by Thinkers50. You can access her free list of conversation starters . RuthGotian
  • Ushma S. Neill is the Vice President, Scientific Education & Training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She runs several summer internships and is involved with the NYC Marshall Scholar Selection Committee. ushmaneill

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  • Knowledge Base
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  • How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

Published on February 12, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 3, 2023.

A personal statement is a short essay of around 500–1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you’re applying.

To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application , don’t just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to demonstrate three things:

  • Your personality: what are your interests, values, and motivations?
  • Your talents: what can you bring to the program?
  • Your goals: what do you hope the program will do for you?

This article guides you through some winning strategies to build a strong, well-structured personal statement for a master’s or PhD application. You can download the full examples below.

Urban Planning Psychology History

Table of contents

Getting started with your personal statement, the introduction: start with an attention-grabbing opening, the main body: craft your narrative, the conclusion: look ahead, revising, editing, and proofreading your personal statement, frequently asked questions, other interesting articles.

Before you start writing, the first step is to understand exactly what’s expected of you. If the application gives you a question or prompt for your personal statement, the most important thing is to respond to it directly.

For example, you might be asked to focus on the development of your personal identity; challenges you have faced in your life; or your career motivations. This will shape your focus and emphasis—but you still need to find your own unique approach to answering it.

There’s no universal template for a personal statement; it’s your chance to be creative and let your own voice shine through. But there are strategies you can use to build a compelling, well-structured story.

The first paragraph of your personal statement should set the tone and lead smoothly into the story you want to tell.

Strategy 1: Open with a concrete scene

An effective way to catch the reader’s attention is to set up a scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. If you’re stuck, try thinking about:

  • A personal experience that changed your perspective
  • A story from your family’s history
  • A memorable teacher or learning experience
  • An unusual or unexpected encounter

To write an effective scene, try to go beyond straightforward description; start with an intriguing sentence that pulls the reader in, and give concrete details to create a convincing atmosphere.

Strategy 2: Open with your motivations

To emphasize your enthusiasm and commitment, you can start by explaining your interest in the subject you want to study or the career path you want to follow.

Just stating that it interests you isn’t enough: first, you need to figure out why you’re interested in this field:

  • Is it a longstanding passion or a recent discovery?
  • Does it come naturally or have you had to work hard at it?
  • How does it fit into the rest of your life?
  • What do you think it contributes to society?

Tips for the introduction

  • Don’t start on a cliche: avoid phrases like “Ever since I was a child…” or “For as long as I can remember…”
  • Do save the introduction for last. If you’re struggling to come up with a strong opening, leave it aside, and note down any interesting ideas that occur to you as you write the rest of the personal statement.

Once you’ve set up the main themes of your personal statement, you’ll delve into more detail about your experiences and motivations.

To structure the body of your personal statement, there are various strategies you can use.

Strategy 1: Describe your development over time

One of the simplest strategies is to give a chronological overview of key experiences that have led you to apply for graduate school.

  • What first sparked your interest in the field?
  • Which classes, assignments, classmates, internships, or other activities helped you develop your knowledge and skills?
  • Where do you want to go next? How does this program fit into your future plans?

Don’t try to include absolutely everything you’ve done—pick out highlights that are relevant to your application. Aim to craft a compelling narrative that shows how you’ve changed and actively developed yourself.

My interest in psychology was first sparked early in my high school career. Though somewhat scientifically inclined, I found that what interested me most was not the equations we learned about in physics and chemistry, but the motivations and perceptions of my fellow students, and the subtle social dynamics that I observed inside and outside the classroom. I wanted to learn how our identities, beliefs, and behaviours are shaped through our interactions with others, so I decided to major in Social Psychology. My undergraduate studies deepened my understanding of, and fascination with, the interplay between an individual mind and its social context.During my studies, I acquired a solid foundation of knowledge about concepts like social influence and group dynamics, but I also took classes on various topics not strictly related to my major. I was particularly interested in how other fields intersect with psychology—the classes I took on media studies, biology, and literature all enhanced my understanding of psychological concepts by providing different lenses through which to look at the issues involved.

Strategy 2: Own your challenges and obstacles

If your path to graduate school hasn’t been easy or straightforward, you can turn this into a strength, and structure your personal statement as a story of overcoming obstacles.

  • Is your social, cultural or economic background underrepresented in the field? Show how your experiences will contribute a unique perspective.
  • Do you have gaps in your resume or lower-than-ideal grades? Explain the challenges you faced and how you dealt with them.

Don’t focus too heavily on negatives, but use them to highlight your positive qualities. Resilience, resourcefulness and perseverance make you a promising graduate school candidate.

Growing up working class, urban decay becomes depressingly familiar. The sight of a row of abandoned houses does not surprise me, but it continues to bother me. Since high school, I have been determined to pursue a career in urban planning. While people of my background experience the consequences of urban planning decisions first-hand, we are underrepresented in the field itself. Ironically, given my motivation, my economic background has made my studies challenging. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for my undergraduate studies, but after graduation I took jobs in unrelated fields to help support my parents. In the three years since, I have not lost my ambition. Now I am keen to resume my studies, and I believe I can bring an invaluable perspective to the table: that of the people most impacted by the decisions of urban planners.

Strategy 3: Demonstrate your knowledge of the field

Especially if you’re applying for a PhD or another research-focused program, it’s a good idea to show your familiarity with the subject and the department. Your personal statement can focus on the area you want to specialize in and reflect on why it matters to you.

  • Reflect on the topics or themes that you’ve focused on in your studies. What draws you to them?
  • Discuss any academic achievements, influential teachers, or other highlights of your education.
  • Talk about the questions you’d like to explore in your research and why you think they’re important.

The personal statement isn’t a research proposal , so don’t go overboard on detail—but it’s a great opportunity to show your enthusiasm for the field and your capacity for original thinking.

In applying for this research program, my intention is to build on the multidisciplinary approach I have taken in my studies so far, combining knowledge from disparate fields of study to better understand psychological concepts and issues. The Media Psychology program stands out to me as the perfect environment for this kind of research, given its researchers’ openness to collaboration across diverse fields. I am impressed by the department’s innovative interdisciplinary projects that focus on the shifting landscape of media and technology, and I hope that my own work can follow a similarly trailblazing approach. More specifically, I want to develop my understanding of the intersection of psychology and media studies, and explore how media psychology theories and methods might be applied to neurodivergent minds. I am interested not only in media psychology but also in psychological disorders, and how the two interact. This is something I touched on during my undergraduate studies and that I’m excited to delve into further.

Strategy 4: Discuss your professional ambitions

Especially if you’re applying for a more professionally-oriented program (such as an MBA), it’s a good idea to focus on concrete goals and how the program will help you achieve them.

  • If your career is just getting started, show how your character is suited to the field, and explain how graduate school will help you develop your talents.
  • If you have already worked in the profession, show what you’ve achieved so far, and explain how the program will allow you to take the next step.
  • If you are planning a career change, explain what has driven this decision and how your existing experience will help you succeed.

Don’t just state the position you want to achieve. You should demonstrate that you’ve put plenty of thought into your career plans and show why you’re well-suited to this profession.

One thing that fascinated me about the field during my undergraduate studies was the sheer number of different elements whose interactions constitute a person’s experience of an urban environment. Any number of factors could transform the scene I described at the beginning: What if there were no bus route? Better community outreach in the neighborhood? Worse law enforcement? More or fewer jobs available in the area? Some of these factors are out of the hands of an urban planner, but without taking them all into consideration, the planner has an incomplete picture of their task. Through further study I hope to develop my understanding of how these disparate elements combine and interact to create the urban environment. I am interested in the social, psychological and political effects our surroundings have on our lives. My studies will allow me to work on projects directly affecting the kinds of working-class urban communities I know well. I believe I can bring my own experiences, as well as my education, to bear upon the problem of improving infrastructure and quality of life in these communities.

Tips for the main body

  • Don’t rehash your resume by trying to summarize everything you’ve done so far; the personal statement isn’t about listing your academic or professional experience, but about reflecting, evaluating, and relating it to broader themes.
  • Do make your statements into stories: Instead of saying you’re hard-working and self-motivated, write about your internship where you took the initiative to start a new project. Instead of saying you’ve always loved reading, reflect on a novel or poem that changed your perspective.

Your conclusion should bring the focus back to the program and what you hope to get out of it, whether that’s developing practical skills, exploring intellectual questions, or both.

Emphasize the fit with your specific interests, showing why this program would be the best way to achieve your aims.

Strategy 1: What do you want to know?

If you’re applying for a more academic or research-focused program, end on a note of curiosity: what do you hope to learn, and why do you think this is the best place to learn it?

If there are specific classes or faculty members that you’re excited to learn from, this is the place to express your enthusiasm.

Strategy 2: What do you want to do?

If you’re applying for a program that focuses more on professional training, your conclusion can look to your career aspirations: what role do you want to play in society, and why is this program the best choice to help you get there?

Tips for the conclusion

  • Don’t summarize what you’ve already said. You have limited space in a personal statement, so use it wisely!
  • Do think bigger than yourself: try to express how your individual aspirations relate to your local community, your academic field, or society more broadly. It’s not just about what you’ll get out of graduate school, but about what you’ll be able to give back.

You’ll be expected to do a lot of writing in graduate school, so make a good first impression: leave yourself plenty of time to revise and polish the text.

Your style doesn’t have to be as formal as other kinds of academic writing, but it should be clear, direct and coherent. Make sure that each paragraph flows smoothly from the last, using topic sentences and transitions to create clear connections between each part.

Don’t be afraid to rewrite and restructure as much as necessary. Since you have a lot of freedom in the structure of a personal statement, you can experiment and move information around to see what works best.

Finally, it’s essential to carefully proofread your personal statement and fix any language errors. Before you submit your application, consider investing in professional personal statement editing . For $150, you have the peace of mind that your personal statement is grammatically correct, strong in term of your arguments, and free of awkward mistakes.

A statement of purpose is usually more formal, focusing on your academic or professional goals. It shouldn’t include anything that isn’t directly relevant to the application.

A personal statement can often be more creative. It might tell a story that isn’t directly related to the application, but that shows something about your personality, values, and motivations.

However, both types of document have the same overall goal: to demonstrate your potential as a graduate student and s how why you’re a great match for the program.

The typical length of a personal statement for graduate school applications is between 500 and 1,000 words.

Different programs have different requirements, so always check if there’s a minimum or maximum length and stick to the guidelines. If there is no recommended word count, aim for no more than 1-2 pages.

If you’re applying to multiple graduate school programs, you should tailor your personal statement to each application.

Some applications provide a prompt or question. In this case, you might have to write a new personal statement from scratch: the most important task is to respond to what you have been asked.

If there’s no prompt or guidelines, you can re-use the same idea for your personal statement – but change the details wherever relevant, making sure to emphasize why you’re applying to this specific program.

If the application also includes other essays, such as a statement of purpose , you might have to revise your personal statement to avoid repeating the same information.

If you want to know more about college essays , academic writing , and AI tools , make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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Last updated February 9, 2024

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Blog > Common App , Essay Examples , Personal Statement > 15 Amazing Personal Statement Examples (2024 Update)

15 Amazing Personal Statement Examples (2024 Update)

Admissions officer reviewed by Ben Bousquet, M.Ed Former Vanderbilt University

Written by Kylie Kistner, MA Former Willamette University Admissions

Key Takeaway

What’s that old saying? “The best way to learn is by doing.” Well, we believe that, in personal statements and in life, cliches like this should be avoided. For some people, the best way to start writing a personal statement is indeed just to start.

But for most writers, jumping right into the writing process is a daunting task. If you’ve never written a personal statement before, then how do you know where to begin?

That’s where example essays come in. There are millions of opinions in the college admissions world about whether or not students should read example essays. But here’s ours:

You absolutely should be reading example personal statements.

Let’s get into it.

Why you should read example personal statements

Reading example personal statements helps you understand why they work (or don’t work) in the admissions process.

Now, the point of reading them isn’t to copy them. It’s not even necessarily to be inspired by them.

Instead, the point of reading examples is to know what personal statements look like. Think about it: if you’d never seen a children’s book before, would you know how to write one? Probably not! Same goes for personal statements.

In this post, we show you some exceptional, solid, and need-to-be-improved personal statements.

And to help you understand how these essays function as personal statements, we’ve also gotten our team of former admissions officers to grade and provide feedback on each.

What does an admissions officer look for in a personal statement?

Before we get to the essays, let’s briefly walk through what goes through an admissions officer’s head when they open an application.

Admissions officers (AOs) read hundreds to thousands of applications in a single year. Different institutions require admissions officers to use different criteria when evaluating applications, so the specifics will vary by school. Your entire application should cohere to form a seamless narrative . You'll be crafting that narrative across the following categories:

  • Transcripts and course rigor : AOs look at the classes you’ve taken to assess how much you’ve challenged yourself based on the classes your school offers. They’re also looking at how well you've done in these classes each term.
  • Extracurricular activities : When reading through your activities list, AOs look at the activities you’ve done, how many years you’ve participated in them, and how many hours a week you devote to them. They’re assessing your activities for the levels of magnitude, impact, and reach that they demonstrate. (Want to know more about these terms? Check out our extracurricular impact post .)
  • Background information : This background information briefly tells admissions officers about demographic and family information, your school context, and any honors or awards you’ve received.
  • Letters of recommendation : Letters of recommendation give AOs insight into who you are in the classroom.
  • Essays : And, finally, the essays. Whether you’re writing a personal statement or a supplemental essay, essays are the main place AOs get to hear your voice and learn more about you. Your personal statement in particular is the place where you get to lay out your overall application narrative and say something meaningful about your personal strengths.

So, with all that in mind, what does an admissions officer actually look for when reading your personal statement?

A few traits tend to surface across the best personal statements, no matter the topic or format. There are four primary areas you should focus on as you craft your personal statement.

  • Strengths: AOs want to know about your strengths. That doesn’t mean bragging about your accomplishments, but it does mean writing about a topic that lets you showcase something positive about yourself.
  • Personal meaning: Personal statements shouldn’t be fluff. They shouldn’t be history essays. They should be personal essays that ooze meaning. The topic you choose should show something significant about yourself that the admissions officers won’t get from any other part of your application.
  • Authenticity and vulnerability: These characteristics can be the most difficult to achieve. Being “vulnerable” doesn’t mean airing all your dirty laundry. It means revealing something authentic and meaningful about who you are. To be vulnerable means to go beyond the surface level to put yourself out there, even to admissions officers who you’ve never met.
  • Clear organization and writing: And lastly, admissions officers also want your essay to be organized clearly so it’s easy to follow along. Remember that admissions officers are reading lots of applications, even in one sitting. So you want to make your reader’s job as easy as possible. Thoughtful and skillful writing can also help take your personal statement to the next level.

If you want to know more about how to incorporate these traits into your own essay, we have a whole guide about how to write the perfect personal statement .

But for now, let’s get into the examples.

We’ve broken up the example personal statements into three categories: best personal statement examples, good personal statement examples, and “bad” personal statement examples. These categories show you that there is a spectrum of what personal statements can look like. The best examples are the gold standard. They meet or exceed all four of the main criteria admissions officers are looking for. The good examples are just that: good. They’re solid examples that may be lacking in a specific area but are still effective personal statements. The “bad” examples are those that don’t yet stack up to the expectations of a personal statement. They’re not objectively bad, but they need some specific improvements to align with what admissions officers are looking for.

Here we go!

The Best Personal Statement Examples

Writing an exceptional personal statement takes a lot of time and effort. Even the best writers can find the genre challenging. But when you strike the perfect chord and get it right, it’s almost like magic. Your essay jumps off the page and captures an admissions officer’s attention. They feel like you’re right there with them, telling them everything they need to know to vote “yes” on your admission.

The following essays are some of our favorites. They cover a range of topics, styles, and student backgrounds. But they all tell meaningful stories about the writers’ lives. They are well-organized, use vivid language, and speak to the writers’ strengths.

For each essay, our team of former admissions officers have offered comments about what makes the essay exceptional. Take a look through the annotations and feedback to see what lessons you can apply to your own personal statement.

Personal Statement Example #1: Thankful

My family has always been broke. Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings, always the same drill: the kids (my brothers and me) would be loaded in the car with my parents and off we’d all go to the food pantry. New clothes were few and far between, and going on vacation was something that we could only dream of. Despite our financial struggles, one year, my parents decided to surprise us with a trip to Disney Land. It was a complete shock to me and my siblings. We were over the moon. In fact, the screams of excitement that emanated from my younger brother’s mouth still ring in my ears.

But as the trip drew close, my excitement tempered and I began to worry. Being poor when you’re young doesn’t just affect you materially. It also affects how you see the world and loads you up with a whole range of anxieties that, in an ideal world, no child should have to face. How were my parents going to afford this, I wondered? Would an expense like this push us over the brink?(( The beginning of this essay, and especially this sentence, show the writer’s empathy. They are not selfish; they understand their broader family context and take that into consideration.)) I didn't want to ruin the surprise by asking, but I couldn't shake the feeling of dread building inside of me.

The day of our trip arrived and we set off for the airport. In the car, my dad made an off-the-cuff comment about a new video game that he’d wanted to play but didn’t buy, and everything clicked—my parents had made the trip possible by saving for months, cutting back on expenses and sacrificing their own comforts to make the trip happen.

As we boarded the plane, I was filled with a mix of emotions. I was grateful beyond words for my parents' sacrifice, but I was also overwhelmed by the guilt of knowing that they had given up so much for us. I didn't know how to express my gratitude; when we deplaned in LAX, I gave my mom and dad a rib-crushing hug.

The trip itself was everything that I had dreamed of and more. We spent four magical days at Disney Land(( Nice use of vivid details here. The reader can picture the sights and smells of Disney—and the ensuing hunger when passing a churro stand.)) , speed running the roller coasters and campy boat rides from the 70s. Sure, we packed our own food and walked right by the churro stands with a hungry look in our eyes. But I will never forget the feeling of unmitigated joy that my family shared on that trip, the smiles that painted my parents’ faces.

But the trip itself was nothing compared to the gratitude I felt for my parents(( Here, the writer transitions to reintroducing the theme of gratitude.)) . They had given us the gift of a lifetime, and I knew that I would never be able to repay them for their sacrifice.

In the years since that trip, I have carried that feeling of gratitude with me. It has motivated me to work hard and to always strive to be the best person that I can be. I want to make my parents proud and to show them that their sacrifice was worth it(( Finally, the writer sums things up with an eye to the future. It’s helpful for an admission officer to picture what the essay’s lessons might mean for the student as a future community member.)) .

I will never be able to fully express my gratitude for what my parents did for us, but I will always remember their selflessness and their willingness to put their own needs aside for the sake of our happiness. It was a truly surprising and incredible act of love, and one that I will always be thankful for.

AO Notes on Thankful

This essay accomplishes a few things even though it essentially tells one story and offers a quick reflection. It gives some important context regarding the challenges of being from a lower-income family. It does that in a way that is authentic, rather than problem-focused. It also shows that the writer is empathetic, family-oriented, and reflective.

Why this essay stands out:

  • Vulnerability : This essay is upfront about a challenging topic: financial insecurity. While you don’t have to tell your most difficult challenge in an essay, this writer chose to write about a circumstance that gives additional context that may be helpful as admissions considers their application.
  • Personal : The writer gets into some family dynamics and paints a picture of how their family treats and takes care of each other.
  • Values: We clearly see some values the writer has and that they don’t take their parents’ sacrifices for granted. As an admission officer, I can picture this student using their education to give back—to their family or to others.

Personal Statement Example #2: Pickleball

I’ve always been one to have a good attitude no matter the circumstances. Except when it comes to exercise. From dodgeball in PE class to family Turkey Trots, I’m always the first one out and the last one across the finish line. These realities aren’t from a lack of skill—I’m actually quite coordinated and fast. They are from a lack of effort(( This is a quick hit of… either humor or vulnerability. I chuckled at the blunt honesty, and am intrigued to learn more.)) . Despite my best intentions, I can never get myself to care about sports or competitions. So when my dad first asked me to be his pickleball partner last summer, I did nothing but laugh.

But soon, I realized that he was serious. My dad started playing pickleball two years ago as a fun way to exercise. He’d become a star in our city’s recreation league, and I always enjoyed cheering him on from the sidelines. When his doubles partner got relocated for work, my dad decided that the disruption was a good opportunity for us bond through pickleball. Even though I was mortified by the thought of running back and forth to hit a bouncing ball, I reluctantly agreed.

The next Saturday morning, we went to the court for our first practice. I was wearing sweatpants, an old sweatshirt, and a grimace. My dad showed me how to hold the paddle, serve, and return the ball to our opponents. He told me about staying out of the kitchen—an endearing pickleball term that references the “kitchen,” or the middle part of the court—trying to make me laugh. Instead, I sighed impatiently and walked to my end of the court, ready to get it over with.

My dad remained patient in spite of my bad attitude. He gently served me the ball, and I gave a lackluster attempt to return it. The ball bounced into the net. I hadn’t even made it to his side of the court. Trying his best to encourage me, my dad gave me the ball so I could serve it to him instead. I tossed the ball up and hit it underhand toward my dad. It hit the net again. I tried again and again, each attempt with less care than the last. I grew frustrated and threw my paddle down in anger(( Okay, this paragraph gives a good dose of openness to the emotions of the writer. They’ve served up an opportunity to learn a lesson soon…)) .

After seeing my mini-meltdown, my dad crossed the kitchen to talk to me. During our conversation, I began to ask myself why I got so frustrated when I wasn’t trying very hard in the first place. I thought pickleball was a miserable sport, but I realized that it wasn’t pickleball that I cared about. I cared about my dad. I wanted to make him proud(( Ah, and there it is! A realization. As the admission officer I’m thinking, “Go on…”)) . Playing pickleball with him was the least I could do to thank him for everything he’d done for me. I dusted off my bad attitude alongside my paddle, and I got up to try another serve.

That serve hit the net again. But more determined now, I kept trying until my serves went over the net and through my dad’s weak side. I couldn’t believe it. My attitude adjustment helped me see the game for what it was: a game. It wasn’t supposed to be agonizing or cruel. It was supposed to be fun.

I learned that my attitude towards sports was unacceptable. This experience taught me that it’s okay to have preferences about what you enjoy, but it’s important to always maintain a positive attitude(( And the lesson learned! )) . You may just enjoy it after all.

Now my dad and I are both stars in our recreation league. Soon, we will make our way to our league’s semi-finals. We’ve worked our way through the bracket and are close to the championship. What I appreciate more about this experience, however, is how close it’s brought my dad and I together. His patience, positivity, and persistence have and will always inspire me. I want to be more like him every day, especially on the pickleball court.

AO Notes on Pickleball

This is a strong “attitude adjustment” essay, a bit of a remix of a challenge essay. The challenge, in this case, was a fixed mindset about sports that needed to be adjusted. The writer takes us on a witty journey through their own attitude towards organized athletic activities and their father.

  • Self-aware : Similar to the vulnerability of other essays, this writer is willing to criticize themselves by recognizing that they need an attitude adjustment. Even before they changed their attitude, we get the sense that they are at least aware of their own lack of effort.
  • Strong conclusion : We see a nice lesson at the end that relates both to having an open mind and caring for others. They even make a point about simply enjoying things because they are fun.
  • Life lesson : Beyond the stated lesson, as an admission officer with a few more years on this Earth than the writer, I can tell this lesson will apply beyond sports. In fact, I can easily picture this student trying a new class, club, or group of friends in college because they are now more open to novel experiences.

Personal Statement Example #3: The Bird Watcher

I’m an avid walker and bird watcher(( Okay, the writer gets right into it! I think this simple introduction of the topic works well because they are writing about a less common hobby among teenagers. If they had said “I am an avid baseball player”, I would have been less eager to learn more.)) . Growing up, I’d clear my head by walking along the trail in the woods behind my house. By the time I was immersed in the chaos of high school, these walks became an afternoon routine. Now, every day at three o’clock, I don my jacket and hiking shoes and set off. As I walk, I note the flora and fauna around me. The wind whispering through the trees, the quiet rustling of a chipmunk underfoot, and the high-pitched call of robins perched atop branches, all of it brings me back to life after a difficult day.

And recently, the days have been more difficult than not. My grandparents passing, parents divorcing, and doctor diagnosing me with ADHD have presented me with more challenges than I’ve ever experienced before. But no matter what’s going on in my life, the wildlife on my walks brings me peace. As an aspiring ornithologist, the birds are my favorite(( This paragraph accomplishes a lot: a montage of difficult circumstances, context for their application, and declares their future career.)) .

I became interested in ornithology during long childhood afternoons spent at my grandparents’ house. They would watch me while my parents finished up work. I’d listen to the old bird clock that hung on the wall in the kitchen. Each number on the clock corresponded with a different bird. Every hour, the clock would chirp rather than chime. When the cardinal sang, I knew my parents would be arriving soon. Those chirps are all seared into my memory.

Twelve o’clock: robin. The short, fast, almost laugh-like sound of the robin always makes me hungry. All those Saturday afternoons filled with laughter and good food have resulted in a Pavlovian response. I’d cook meatballs with my grandma, splashing sauce on her floral wall paper. We’d laugh and laugh and enjoy the meal together at her plastic-covered kitchen table. This wasn’t my home, but I felt at home just the same.

Three o’clock: blue jay. It’d chime as soon as we walked in the door after school. The blue jay was my grandpa’s favorite. It was also mine. Why he loved it, I’m not completely sure. But it was my favorite because it marked the beginning of the best parts of my day. Symbolizing strength and confidence, blue jays always remind me of my grandpa.

Six o’clock: cardinal. The sharp whistle and staccato of the cardinal indicated that it was almost time for me to leave. Like the whistle of a closing shift, I’d hear it and start to pack my things. The cardinal has always been my least favorite.

Nine o’clock: house finch. The high, sweet, almost inquisitive call of the house finch was the one my grandma loved most. It was also the one I rarely heard. Either too early or too late in the day, the house finch was reserved for the occasional weekends when I’d spend the night at their house. My grandma would explain that finches symbolize harmony and peace. They are petite but mighty, just like she was(( This is a clever and sweet way of describing summer days with grandparents, while sprinkling in some vivid details to bring the story to life.)) .

This past weekend was the anniversary of my grandpa’s passing. Longing for my grandparents, I went for a walk. Winter is approaching, so the sky was darkening quickly. I walked slowly. As the sun set, I heard the tell-tale squawk of a blue jay, loud and piercing through the chill of the wind. I looked around and saw it sitting on an old stump, a small house finch behind it. I extracted my binoculars from my backpack, hoping to get a better glimpse through the dark. I turned the dial to focus the lenses, just as the birds flew away together. I took a deep breath, binoculars in hand, and continued on, spotting a robin in the distance(( The ending stylistically wraps the essay up without tying a bow on it. It’s a more artful way of concluding, and it works well here.)) .

AO Notes on Birdwatcher

This first two paragraphs are well-written and fairly to-the-point in their language. They do a nice job of setting the scene, but the third paragraph transitions into the writer’s distinctive voice. They detail the birds on the clock to chronicle the hours of their summer days and end, not without concluding, but leaving the reader wanting to read more of their stories.

  • Voice: The writer transitions to writing in their own distinct voice, which comes to a crescendo in the final paragraph.
  • Interesting approach: Sometimes students use an approach to tell a story that feels overly forced or cleche. This one feels organic and relates nicely to the writer, their family, and the story as a whole.
  • Career path : This is far from a “What I want to be when I grow up” essay, but it clearly shows an academic interest grounded in family and childhood memories. This is an artistic and beautiful approach to showing admissions how the writer may use their college education.

Personal Statement Example #4: Chekov’s Wig

At the age of six, I starred in an at-home, one-woman production of Annie. My family watched as I switched between a wig I’d fashioned from maroon yarn, a dog’s tail leftover from Halloween, and a tie I’d stolen from my dad.

When the reveal came that Annie’s parents had actually passed away, I took a creative liberty: they had left Annie a small unicorn farm. The rest of the play proceeded as normal. When the curtain closed, I bowed to the sound of my family’s applause. But one set of hands was missing: my grandmother’s. Instead she sat, arms raised, and jokingly exclaimed, “But what about the unicorns?”(( Wow, an interesting intro! We see creativity and a silly side to the writer. As the admission officer, I’m eager to see where this leads.))

My grandma, an avid thespian, taught me a lot about life. But one of the most important lessons followed this production of Annie . After we laughed about her remark, she introduced me to the concept of Chekov’s gun. For Anton Chekov, brilliant playwright, the theory goes something like this: a writer shouldn’t write about a loaded gun if it’s not going to be fired. In other words, writers shouldn’t include details about something if it won’t serve a purpose in the story later. My unicorn farm had committed this writing faux pas egregiously.

I’m not a natural writer, and I have no goal to become one, but I’ve taken this concept of Chekov’s gun to heart—it forms the foundation of my life philosophy. I don’t believe that everything was meant to be(( This philosophical reflection is a nice introduction to the paragraphs that follow. )) . In fact, I think that sometimes bad things just happen. But I believe that these details will always play a part in our larger story.

The first test of my Chekov’s gun philosophy occurred shortly after Annie when my grandma, my biggest supporter, passed away. My family tried to console me saying that “it was her time to go,” but I disagreed. I couldn’t see how a death could be destined. Instead, I found comfort knowing that her presence, her support, and her death wasn’t for nothing. Like Chekov’s gun, I wasn’t quite sure how or why, but I knew that she would return for me.

As I grew older, my philosophy was tested time and again. Most recently, I fell back on Chekov’s gun as I coped with my parents’ divorce and my subsequent move to a new town. Both events shattered my world. My happy family theatre productions turned into custody hearings and overnight bags. The community I’d found at my old school became a sea of unfamiliar faces at my new one. None of this was meant to be. But as the writer of my own life, I won’t let the details become inconsequential.

I’ve used these events as plot points in my high school experience. Dealing with my parents’ divorce has taught me how to make the best of what’s given to me. I got the chance to decorate two bedrooms, live in both the suburbs and the city, and even have twice the amount of pets. And without the inciting incident of the divorce and move(( We see that the writer is able to make lemonade out of lemons here.)) , I never would have joined a new drama club or landed leading roles in Mama Mia and Twelfth Night. The divorce and move, like Chekov’s gun, have been crucial details in getting me where I’m at today.

I know that Chekov’s gun is more about the details in a story, but this philosophy empowers me to take what happens, the good and the bad, as part of my personal character development. Nothing would be happening if it weren’t important.

This summer, as we cleaned our garage in preparation for yet another move, I found my old Annie wig, yarn tangled from the box. Next to the wig was a note, handwritten in a script I’d recognize anywhere. My darling star, it read. You are going to go on to do great things. Love, Grandma ((And a sweet, or bittersweet, conclusion.)) .

AO Notes on Chekov’s Wig

This essay tells a beautiful story about a foundational philosophy in this young writer’s life. As their admission officer, I can see how grounded and positive they are. I can also imagine them taking this lesson to college: really paying attention to life, reflecting on the past, and understanding the value of even the smallest instances. There is an inherent maturity in this essay.

  • Creativity: From the first few sentences, we can see that this student is now, and was as a child, creative. An original thinker.
  • Reflective: When challenged by their grandmother, the writer didn’t insist that their way was correct. They took the criticism in stride and absorbed it as a salient life lesson. This shows open-mindedness and an uncommon level of maturity.
  • Silver linings: It’s clear that this young writer has had some familial challenges that are likely familiar to some of you. They don’t gloss over them, but instead they learn from them. From having more pets to starring in the school musicals, there are lessons to glean from even life’s more difficult challenges.

Personal Statement Example #5: An Afternoon with Grandmother

The Buddhist temple on the hillside above my home has always possessed a deep power for me. With its towering spires and intricate carvings thousands of years old, it is a place of peace and serenity(( This writer opens with some wonderful imagery. I like how the imagery mirrors the meaning.)) —somewhere I can go to escape the chaos of the world and connect with myself and with my sense of spirituality. When my grandmother called me one January to let me know that she would be coming to visit, I smiled, my mind darting immediately to the temple and to the visit of it we would take together.

My relationship with my grandmother is a special one. After my parents passed away, she and my grandfather raised me for three years before I moved in with my father’s sister. In that time, she was my sole companion; she shared her recipes with me, told me stories, and most importantly, she taught me everything I know about spirituality. We spent countless nights staying up past bed-time, talking about the teachings of the Buddha, and she encouraged me gently to explore my own path to enlightenment(( This topic is accomplishing a lot: we see the writer’s relationship with their grandmother, their personal values, and their ideas about who they want to be in the future.)) .

When my grandmother finally arrived, I felt bathed in a warm glow. After catching up and preparing her favorite meal—red rice with miso soup and hot green tea—I told her about the plans I had for us to visit my special place.

Later that afternoon, as we entered the temple, I felt the calmness and tranquility wash over me. I took my grandmother's hand and led her to the main hall, where we knelt before the altar and began to recite the prayers and mantras that I had learned from her years before.

As we prayed, our voices joined together, echoing throughout the temple. A gentle rain began to fall outside and, as the cold crept around where we knelt, I was engulfed by a deep sense of connection with my grandmother and with the universe. It was as if the barriers between us were falling away, and we were becoming one—with each other, and with our shared connection to the divine.

We finished our prayers and sat in silence, lingering in the serenity of the temple. I could feel my grandmother's hand in mine, and I was filled with a sense of gratitude and love(( A great example of weaving vivid language with explicit reflection!)) .

Spirituality has been essential in my life. It gives me a sense of grounding and purpose, and it teaches me the value of compassion. My spirituality has also given me a way to connect with my grandmother on a deeper level—like a private language that only we speak together. In a world that can often feel chaotic and disconnected, faith and spirituality provide a sense of stability and connection.

As we left the temple, I held my grandmother's hand and felt suffused by a sense of peace and contentment. Too often people who are disconnected from spirituality misunderstand the role it plays in billions of people’s lives. They see it as a way to “check out” from the issues the world faces, ignoring their responsibilities to others. This may be true for others, but not me. Quite the opposite. My spirituality helps me empathize with others(( Wonderful reflection.)) ; it helps me focus on the obligations we each have to every other person and creature on this planet. For me, it is the ultimate way to “check in” to the needs of the world and my community in a way that grounds me emotionally.

Spirituality offers a way to find meaning and purpose in life, and to connect with something greater than ourselves. For that, and for my grandmother, I am truly grateful.

AO Notes on An Afternoon with Grandmother

In this deeply reflective essay, the writer uses spirituality and their relationship with their grandmother to reveal a very personal part of themselves. The writer isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, and they clearly showcase strengths of wisdom and compassion.

  • Vivid language: This author is a talented writer who has included a bunch of vivid language. But it’s not over the top. They include just enough to hold a reader’s attention and add some interest.
  • Reflection: The reflection throughout this essay is excellent. Notice how it’s not just at the beginning or the end. It’s woven throughout. The writer follows up each major detail with an explanation of why it’s personally meaningful.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion combines vivid language and reflection perfectly. By the end of the essay, we know exactly what the writer wants us to take away: spirituality is personally meaningful to them because it helps them connect with the people around them. And I especially like how the writer chose to end on a note of gratitude—always a good value to have in a personal statement.

Personal Statement Example #6: Rosie’s

While most people find their lowest point at rock bottom, I found mine in an Amerikooler DW081677F-8(( We’re definitely off to an odd start. I’m curious where this is headed!)) . With drops rolling down my back and my cheeks, I snuck into the walk-in freezer for a moment of chill.

At that point, I had worked at Rosie's for nearly a year. The job was a good one: it fit with my school schedule, paid well, and introduced me to close friends. But as a workplace, Rosie’s was pure chaos. The original owners passed on a host of problems the new owners were working hard to fix. But the problems ran deep. From an inefficient kitchen organization to a malfunctioning scheduling software, we never knew what to do or when.

The day I found myself in the Amerikooler was the day everything caught up with us(( This is a good transitional phrase that helps readers navigate this fairly complex narrative.)) . An error in our scheduling software led to us operating with only 30% of our typical team. As the only waitress on duty, I ran between the kitchen and the guests, stopping mid-delivery to put new vegetables in the steamers. The kitchen staff were barely getting through each dish before customers lost patience.

Then, in all the commotion, I dropped a plate of macaroni and cheese all over a customer. I apologized over and over again. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I couldn’t believe what I had done. I always tried to be one step ahead to give my customers the best service, so my mistake felt like an utter failure. After helping them clean up, I ran immediately to the freezer. I realized that something had to change.

In the Amerikooler, a pea and corn mix cool on my back, I considered my options. The easiest option was to quit. I could find another job, one that didn’t cause me so much stress. But quitting wouldn’t just mean giving up. It would mean accepting my failure. It would also mean abandoning the coworkers I had grown close to. Leaving them would only burden them more. While I knew it wasn’t my job to fix the restaurant, I knew that leaving wasn’t the answer either. Instead, I decided to focus on solutions(( I like the focus on solutions and action steps here!)) . I stood up from the cold, dirty freezer floor, dusted off my work pants, washed my hands, and got back to work.

Despite being the newest and youngest member of the Rosie’s staff, I recognized that I brought a new perspective to the workplace. Having spent the previous three summers scheduling volunteers for my local food drive, I used my organizing experience to devise a new scheduling system, one that didn’t rely on our outdated technology. I brought up the system at our weekly meeting, and after initial pushback, everyone agreed to give it a try. Three months later, my system keeps everyone happy and our kitchen and floor staffed.

But it wasn’t just the staffing problem that was the issue. Our workflows were inefficient, and we didn’t know how to communicate or collaborate effectively. I know that identifying an issue is always the first step to a solution, so I raised the question at our most recent staff meeting. Having earned my coworkers’ and bosses’ trust(( And here we see some good growth and leadership.)) , I led us in outlining a few new processes to streamline our productivity. In stark contrast to the failure I felt after spilling the macaroni and cheese, developing a new workflow with my coworkers made me proud. I hadn’t given in to the chaos, but I had worked thoughtfully and collaboratively to create new solutions.

I’m sure that won’t be my last time working in a disorganized environment or spilling macaroni and cheese. But I know that I’ll be ready to address whatever comes my way.

AO Notes on Rosie’s

If you’ve ever worked in a food establishment, then something in this essay will probably resonate with you. But I appreciate how the writer doesn’t get pulled into the negativity they experience. Instead, they focused their efforts (and their essay) on how they could make things better for everyone. That’s the kind of student admissions officers want to see on their campuses.

  • Organization: The writer has to narrate and backtrack a bit at the beginning of the essay to make the introduction work. But it’s not confusing for a reader because they have very solid transitions. I also like how the action steps and reflection are organized in the narrative.
  • Positive outlook: As an admissions officer, I would admire this student for their problem-solving skills. Working in that environment was surely tough, but they didn’t give up. They got to work and helped everyone out in the process.
  • Humor: From the introduction to the conclusion, the writer incorporates subtle humor throughout. Because of it, we actually feel like we know the writer by the conclusion. Too much humor can overwhelm a personal essay, but just enough can help readers see who the writer really is.

Personal Statement Example #7: Gone Fishing

I pulled the line with my left hand and snapped the rod back with my right. The line split through the air above me like a knife through cake. I rigidly waved my right arm up and down to dry off my fly, which had started sinking from the weight of the water. Ready to cast, I loosened the grip on my left hand to release a few more feet of line, pulled my right arm back in a grandiose motion, and hammered it back down. I expected my line to fly out in front of me, gracefully floating back onto the surface of the water. Instead, I was met with a startling resistance. My fly had lodged itself into the bush behind me(( This opening paragraph has great vivid description. Here, we end on a moment of suspense that has left me intrigued about what will happen next.)) .

Annoyed, I waded through the tall, thick grass, rod under my arm and mosquitoes buzzing in my ears. This was the reality of fly fishing. In my short time as a fisherman, I’d caught far more trees, bushes, and riverweed than I had fish. What seems so elegant in movies like A River Runs Through It is actually a grueling process of trial and error. I took up flyfishing a year ago to conquer my fear of the outdoors(( Ah ha—we learn that this essay isn’t really about fly fishing. It’s about conquering a fear. And with that, we see that the stakes are high.)) . I could have (and probably should have) chosen a more mild activity like hiking or kayaking, but I’ve always been one to take on a challenge.

I had been afraid of the outdoors since childhood. Coming from a family that prefers libraries to parks and bed and breakfasts to tents, I never learned how to appreciate nature. I limited my time outside as much as I could. I feared the bugs, the sun, and the unknown.

I decided to try flyfishing when I realized I didn’t want to be controlled by my fear any longer(( As an AO, I would applaud this student’s bravery.)) . All the birthday parties I’d turned down, the memories that were made without me, I had missed out on so much. Being outside was an integral part of the human experience—or, at least, that’s what I’d been told. Without being willing to enjoy nature, I was missing out on what it meant to be myself.

Soon after this realization, I found an old rod in my grandpa’s garage and took it as a sign from the universe. On my first time out, my Honda Civic lurched over a ditch on the gravel road Google Maps had directed me to. I’d spent hours watching YouTube videos of proper technique. Stepping out of my car, I felt my skin crack under the dry heat, and I wanted to leave. But I continued on, walking through branches and over logs to the riverbank. I was doing it( More vivid detail that really gives us a sense of the writer’s discomfort—yet they’re persisting.)) .

I pushed myself to continue, no matter how uncomfortable I got. I went back, Saturday after Saturday, each time noticing improvements in my abilities. Along the way, I learned to push myself to do things that make me uncomfortable. I saw myself in a new light. I wasn’t Charlie, afraid of the outdoors. I was Charlie, fisherman.

The first time I caught a fish, I could hardly believe it. Thinking I had caught another piece of riverweed, I tugged on my line and rolled my eyes. But suddenly, it started tugging back. It was a sensation I’d never experienced before, one of haste, pride, and panic. I instantly collected myself, bracing against the bank as I secured the line with my finger and slowly pulled the fish ashore. Delicately removing my hook from its mouth, I admired its beauty. Whereas I had once feared creatures like this trout, I now respected it. Its holographic scales glistened in the sunlight. I thanked it for helping me grow, and I placed it back in the water. It swam away. I wiped the slime off my hands and picked up my rod, left hand tugging at the line, right hand snapping back again((This conclusion is quite long, but I really like this poetic ending. It shows so much growth, and there’s a subtle nod to the fact that the writer is continuing to fish.)) .

AO Notes on Gone Fishing

From all this imagery, I really felt like I was fishing alongside them. What’s better, I feel like I really get where this student is coming from because of their vulnerability. They show immense growth and open-mindedness, which is exactly what admissions officers are looking for.

  • Imagery: This writer definitely likes creative writing. From the introduction, we can envision ourselves going on this journey with the writer. There is some excellent “show, don’t tell” here.
  • Deep personal meaning: Biggest fears are hard to overcome, especially with such a good attitude. It’s clear that this topic is a meaningful one to the writer. Even the act of fly fishing, which they didn’t seem to like much at first, becomes a meaningful act.
  • Narrative arc: We have a classic “going on a journey” essay, where the writer transforms on a journey from point A (being afraid of the outdoors) to point B (catching a fish). The writer’s implementation of this structure is excellent, which makes the essay easy to follow along.

Good Personal Statement Examples

Even if your essay isn’t worthy of The New Yorker , you can still make your mark on admissions officers. Writing an essay that fulfills all the goals of a personal statement, whether or not it meets every single criterion an admissions officer is looking for, can still get you into a great college.

Most personal statements are good personal statements, so don’t worry if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amazing essay examples you see online. The key to writing a good personal statement is writing your personal statement. Focus on finding a topic that lets you communicate your own meaning and voice, and you’ll be set.

The following examples are awesome personal statements. There may be a little room for improvement in places, but the essays do exactly what they need to do. And they say a lot about their writers. Let’s see what the writers and admissions officers have to say.

Personal Statement Example #8: Beekeeper’s Club

As I lift the heavy lid of the hive, the hum of thousands of bees fills my ears. I carefully smoke the entrance to calm the bees, and I begin to inspect the frames. The bees are busy at work, collecting nectar and pollen, and tending to their young. I am in awe of their organization.

I never would have thought that I, a high school student, would become a beekeeper(( An interesting hobby for a high school student! I’m intrigued to see where this is going.)) . But now it’s something I can’t imagine my life without.

It all started when I found a beekeeping suit at a garage sale two summers ago. At a mere five dollars, it was yellowing and musty, but it appeared to be fully intact and without any holes. I’ve lived many lives as a hobbyist, always willing to try new things. I’ve been a sailor, a gardener, a basketball player, a harpist, a rock climber, and more. The problem is that I can never manage to see these hobbies through(( I see. Here we get a sense of what’s at stake in this new venture. The problem is that writer can’t seem to hold down a hobby. Will beekeeping solve that problem? Let’s find out .)) . As a perpetual novice, I always lose interest or become overwhelmed by all the information. But that’s never stopped me from taking up a new hobby, so I brought the beekeeping suit to the make-shift register and handed the seller a five-dollar bill.

To embark on my new hobby, I first went to the library and read everything I could find about beekeeping. Research is always my first step when starting something new. I like to know what I’m in for. As I read, I became fascinated by the fact that such small creatures can serve such a critical role on our planet. I learned about the importance of bees for pollinating crops, and I read that their populations have been declining in recent years. I was determined to do my part to help. This wasn’t just a hobby anymore— it was a mission(( And the stakes just got higher.)) .

But like the bees I’d been reading about, I knew I couldn't do it alone. My years of abandoning hobbies had taught me that this time, I needed guidance from someone with experience. I knew the first place to look. At the farmer’s market that Saturday, I went straight to the honey stand and introduced myself. The vendor’s name was Jeremy, and he was excited to see someone so young taking up beekeeping. I asked if I could come see his hives sometime, and he agreed.

I showed up the next weekend with my used beekeeping suit in hand. Jeremy gave me a tour. I was astounded by the simultaneous simplicity and complexity. As the months went by, Jeremy became my mentor. He taught me the importance of monitoring the health of the hive, how to properly harvest honey, and even the ins and outs of the farmer’s market business.

I was grateful for his guidance and friendship. I found myself becoming more and more passionate about bees and the art of beekeeping.

After months of tending to my hive, I finally had it up and running. These bees were in my care(( The writer has shown us that they’ve learned a big lesson from their past failures: they need support and guidance. I’m impressed that this time they are making an intentional change.)) —this was one hobby I couldn’t abandon. With that knowledge and Jeremy’s support, one hive grew to five. I’m not in it for the money or even the honey. I’m in it for the bees, for the millimeter of difference I’m making in their lives and in the life of the earth.

Through beekeeping, I have found a community of people who share my love for bees. Jeremy, the bees, and the entire beekeeping community have taught me not to quit. We support each other, share tips and advice, and work together to help protect these important insects. And in the process, I have learned that I can take up any new hobby I want and stick with it if I just put in enough effort(( Yep—the writer has come out of this journey on the other side, having learned that their effort does pay off.)) .

AO Notes on Beekeeper’s Club

As an admissions officer, it’s always fun to read about students’ eccentric hobbies. I’d count this as one of them. But what’s better than learning about the hobby is seeing a student’s personal growth.

What makes this essay good:

  • Personal journey: Most good personal statements show some kind of personal growth. In this case, we see that the writer has grown mature and aware enough to hold down a hobby. We see that it wasn’t an easy road, but they got there.
  • Strengths: There are lots of strengths in this personal statement. We see self-awareness, initiative, teamwork, and care for the bees and the planet.
  • Reflection: Part of what makes this personal journey so good is that the writer takes us on the journey with them through reflection. At each stage of the journey, we know exactly what the writer is thinking and feeling. By the end, we’re celebrating their success with them.

What the writer could do to level up:

  • Personal meaning: Yep, “personal journey” and “personal meaning” can be two separate things. Although the writer goes on a great personal journey, the personal meaning seems to be lacking a bit. It’s clear that this is an important topic to the writer, but it doesn’t exactly come across as an especially vulnerable one. The writer could make it more vulnerable by incorporating more personal meaning into their reflection: what would it have meant if they had quit beekeeping too? What’s the problem with dropping hobbies in the first place? Why is it personally important to learn to stick with things?

Personal Statement Example #9: Ann

Pushing her blonde curls from her forehead, she pursed her lips in focus(( This vivid, detailed description really draws me in.)) . She sat with legs crossed across the kitchen chair. This was it: the moment she’d been preparing for. Her tiny hand gripped the pencil as if it were a stick of dynamite and twitched her fingers up, down, and back again. She looked up at me and smiled, teeth too big for her growing mouth. “Ann,” the paper read. As I glowed back at my mini-me, I saw in her my whole heart(( And here the focus switches from Ann to the writer—an important transition.)) .

My sister was technically an accident, born when I was eleven years old. But I know that, in the grand scheme of things, Ann’s existence was destined by the cosmos. Watching her write was like looking in a mirror. My hair has long since turned brown, but she and I deal with the same unmanageable curls. Her toothy grin developed over five years of mutual laughter. And she got that unwavering focus from watching me do my own homework each night. At the same time I’ve taught her the ways of the world, she’s taught me joy, patience, and persistence(( Lessons learned! This sentence really draws attention to the main theme. It could be a little more specific because “joy, patience, and persistence” are almost cliche.)) .

I had been an only child for my first decade of life. I remember being lonely and without purpose. With Ann came the opportunity to make a real impact on someone, even as a child myself. The night she was born, I vowed to protect her. I had never seen anyone so small and fragile, and I begged my parents to let me hold her. Next to mine, her hand looked like a doll’s. It was purple and pink from the ordeal of birth. Her eyes barely opened, but I couldn’t keep mine off her.

Many older siblings find their younger siblings to be nuisances. But Ann has always been my best friend. Her first two years of life, she struggled with health issues that scared us all. I felt helpless and afraid, but I knew I had to fight alongside her. I did everything I could: I grabbed diapers and bottles for my parents, I talked to her for hours on end, and, when she was old enough, I spoon fed her and encouraged her to eat. As Ann grew bigger and stronger, I grew stronger, too(( It sounds like this was a really difficult challenge for the writer and their family. I appreciate this picture we get of the writer in relation to Ann.)) .

Each year has gotten better than the previous. I was there to catch Ann when she took her first steps, teach her her first words, and get her dressed every day. She tagged behind me as I took photos before my first dance, got my learner’s permit, and went on my college tours. While being a teen with a toddler sibling wasn’t always perfect, Ann’s mere presence makes those around her feel loved and appreciated. She’s exactly who I aspire to be.

Watching her write her name at the kitchen table, I became overwhelmed with the thought of leaving her to head off to college. She still has so much to learn, so many ways to grow. But just as the thought entered my mind, she spoke in her high-pitched and innocent voice. “When you go to college,” she asked, “will you tell me about your classes?” I blinked away the tears gathering in my eyes, smoothed her curls with my hand, and pulled her in close.

Going to college won’t mean leaving Ann. It will mean opening her world—and mine—to endless new knowledge and possibilities. She’ll grow and change, and so will I. When we reunite, we’ll smile our toothy smiles and embrace each other, our curly hair intertwining. We’ll sit at the kitchen table, focused and laughing, like nothing has changed(( I like how the siblings are continuing to grow together, but at the end of the day, they still have their amazing relationship.)) .

AO Notes on Ann

I always find sibling essays like this one so sweet. It’s amazing how clearly we can understand someone solely through their interactions with a loved one. As an admissions officer, I would see that this student would be a great community member (and roommate!).

  • Deeply meaningful: Especially with the family context, it’s apparent that this topic is deeply meaningful to the writer. Because it’s so meaningful a topic, the writer is able to show an immense amount of care for Ann without even trying. AOs love seeing traits like care, maturity, and the ability to grow.
  • Clear message: Personal statements should have themes that encompass the main message the writer wants to convey. This essay’s message is clear as day: the writer is a better, happier, more generous person because of Ann. They are an awesome sibling.
  • More about the self: This one’s tricky because we get an implicit sense of who the writer is now through the overall tone and meaning. But a lot of the personal examples the writer chose are old examples from childhood and early adolescence. Some of those are important to provide family context, but I still would have liked to get a more recent picture of the writer.

Personal Statement Example #10: Running through My Neighborhood

My mind and eyes began to wander as I turned the corner on my fourth mile. I’ve always been a runner. It's a way for me to relax and challenge myself. Running makes me feel like I’m one with the world around me. As I run, I can't help but be struck by the beauty of the buildings and people that make up my city. Each is a work of art—a carefully-crafted expression of my community. With every step, I feel a deep connection to the life around me(( This introduction covers a lot, so this last sentence could be a bit more specific.)) .

On my run, I find myself drawn to the intricate details of the buildings. I admire the way the light catches on centuries-old bricks, casting shadows that dance across the pavement below. I look up at the skyscraper windows that nearly touch the sky, frightened at the sight of window washers. Old and new, the buildings all carry stories.

In the same way, I admire the neighbors around me. I see them feeding pigeons, smiling at me as I pass by. They’re walking dogs and babies, talking on a park bench, and playing hopscotch. I run by them, fast but steady, and breathe it all in. I’m on this beautiful city block, surrounded by people whose whole lives are familiar yet mysterious, and I’m running.

But it's not just the aesthetic beauty of the buildings that grabs my attention. As I run, I find myself thinking about the stories and histories behind each one. I wonder about the people who built them, the families they had at home, the lives they led. I think about the people who have lived and worked in these buildings and the memories that have been made within their walls.

Take the local bakery, for instance. I’ve run by there a thousand times in my life, each time soaking up the smell of freshly-baked bread and pastries. The building seems unassuming at first, with a simple glass door and brick façade. But once you step foot inside, you’re immediately hit with the warmth of the staff and patrons. The old photos on the wall and cozy furniture that has been there since the bakery’s opening back in the 1950s—it feels like home(( These are great vivid details.)) . The bakery is everything I value about my neighborhood. It completely represents what kind of neighbor I want to be. Plus, it’s not a bad place for a post-run snack.

Through my runs, I’ve also made connections with those who frequent the sidewalks alongside me. One of the people I see regularly on my runs is Mrs. Carter, an elderly woman who always has a kind word and a smile for everyone she meets. Her white hair is carefully curled, and her face is dimpled with laugh lines from thousands of conversations like ours. She often stops to chat with me, asking how my day is going and sharing stories from her own life. I always look forward to seeing her. She’s like the grandmother I never had. Mrs. Carter inspires me to be a better community member every day(( This kind of reflection brings the focus back to the writer’s personal journey.)) .

Running through my neighborhood is about more than just staying fit. It’s also about being in community with those around me. As I weave through the people on the sidewalk, I feel as though I am weaving myself through their stories, picking up tidbits and adding them to my own narrative. I wouldn’t be who I am today without these runs that have taught me so much. I can’t wait to run across my college campus, admiring my new surroundings and meeting my new neighbors(( I like this gesture to the future—as an AO, I would start to picture this student running through my campus, too!)) .

AO Notes on Running through My Neighborhood

Running essays can get a bad rap in college admissions. But this one overcomes that stereotype. At its core, this essay is about the runner’s relationship to their community. I really appreciate how much care and enthusiasm this writer shows for those around them.

  • Writing: The writer’s voice shines through. They have great vivid descriptions, and we’re really able to envision ourselves in the neighborhood alongside them.
  • Personal meaning: The way the writer describes those they encounter in their neighborhood shows that this isn’t a minor part of their life. Their runs are a big deal. The people they see along the way have greatly shaped who they are.
  • Greater focus on self: Now, there are much worse culprits when it comes to personal essays that focus on people other than the writer. But the writer does toe the line. Their descriptions mostly focus on those around them, and while there is some reflection that connects their own experience to other people, it doesn’t actually take up much space in the essay. To level up, the writer could make this essay more about themself.

Personal Statement Example #11: Musical Installation Art

As a child, I was always drawn to stringed instruments(( The hook could have more punch, but this gets the job done.)) . I would pluck at my dad's old guitars, create makeshift harps with dental floss, and even play around with the banjo and harp in music class. As I got older, I realized that I wanted to focus on making my own instruments. And where better to start than in my dad's scrapyard? The yard sprawled out for almost five acres behind our house. It was a marvel of junk and oddities, with the accumulated garbage from hundreds of junker cars built up in our backyard. I grew up playing there, leading a childhood that most parents would probably see as reckless—rolling tires through narrow alleyways between crushed cars stacked high. But for me, the backyard was an endless playground for my imagination.

It was there that I discovered the joys of welding and soldering. I would rummage through piles of metal and find pieces that I could fashion into something new. My first sculptures were simple, resembling birds or dogs and pieced together from strips of metal. I’d look for similar art everywhere I went, grasping for inspiration. At a fair one weekend, I saw a booth run by an artist who built guitars. After speaking with him about his art, he asked to see a picture of my sculptures. I showed him and explained that I hoped to make my own instruments one day, too. He scuttled to the back of his tent and returned with a gift: a set of thick copper strings. “Try using those,”(( What an endearing story.)) he told me.

My first sculpture instrument was a crude thing—little more than a board of metal with pegs that I used to pull the copper strings tight. But I tightened them, I was in love—spending all night plucking away. At first, the instrument wailed and screeched. String by string, I delicately tuned the wires into sirens. I had created something that played music, and I was so proud.

My experience building the instrument motivated me to enroll in a sculpture class at the local community college. It was there that I learned how to properly solder metal and create more complex structures. For my final project, I made a three-foot-tall, four-stringed metal instrument in the shape of a dragon.

But as I worked, I started to realize that my dragon wasn't going to be beautiful in the traditional sense. Its metal body was jagged and uneven, and the strings were stretched tight across its back in a way that produced discordant, almost abrasive music. I tried to adjust the tuning, but no matter what I did, the music remained harsh and unpleasant.

At first, I was disappointed. I wanted my dragon to be a work of art, something that people would marvel at and love listening to. But as I continued to play with it, I started to see the beauty in the chaos(( This paragraph shows wonderful growth. And as a reader, I’m drawn in trying to imagine what the sculpture actually looks like.)) . The music it produced was like a musical language that I had invented, one that was wild and untamed. It was a reflection of my own creativity and individuality. A discordant collection of notes that sounded like they’d been tuned so as to be atonal. But I didn't care. I was a scrapyard kid, and this dragon played the song of my people: strong, innovative, and beautiful.

The combination of sculpture and music fascinates me. How does the shape of a fabrication affect the kind of sound that the object produces? What sounds do different materials produce? As I’ve learned more about sculpture, I’ve also become interested in installation art that has sound dimensions. I want to capture people’s visual and aural attention to inspire questions about how we navigate the aesthetic world(( It sounds like this topic potentially relates to the student’s future goals. If that’s true, there could be a clearer academic connection here.)) . And I’ll use whatever scraps I can find to make my creations.

AO Notes on Musical Installation Art

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of musical installation art myself, so this topic really held my attention. I appreciate the journey the writer went on to learn that their art may not look like everyone else’s, but it can be just as impactful.

  • Topic: I like this topic not only because it’s not one you see every day but also because it lets the writer reveal a lot about themself and their background. We see where they grew up and who they grew up with, and we also learn about this deeply meaningful personal interest.
  • Writing style: This author has a very distinct writing style. In some ways, the writing style mirrors their art style—abrupt at times, melodic at others.
  • Organization: The first half of this essay doesn’t always match up with the second half. Even though we’re still able to see the writer’s journey as a metal artist and musician, there’s still a bit of streamlining that needs to happen.

Personal Statement Example #12: Ski Patrol

I can never get enough of being in the mountains(( This hook isn’t very compelling, so it could use some more attention.)) . I am a skier through and through. Growing up, I spent countless family vacations on the slopes with my dad and siblings. I love the rush I get speeding down the mountain—I’ve improved so much over my life that I can now handle most runs I come across. But last year, I took my love for skiing to a whole other level by joining ski patrol.

It was mid-December, and my family had decided to take a weekend away to go skiing. Everything was going normally at first. We had a good day on the slopes and wanted to go one more run before calling it a night. We took a moment to rest and watched the person in front of us go. Only seconds after she headed down the mountain, something happened with her ski. She catapulted into a nearby tree. People raced to check on her, while we stayed back and alerted ski patrol.

When ski patrol arrived, I watched in amazement. They moved in such a precise way. They were like a machine—everyone knew exactly what to do when. Thankfully, it was a false alarm and the skier only had a few scratches. But my own life was changed forever. I knew then that I wanted to be a part of this team, to help others in a tangible way and to make a difference on the mountain that had always been my home.

As soon as I could, I applied for the Junior Ski Patrol team. I had to go through a tryout process on the hill, which made me nervous. But it felt good to be surrounded by people who loved skiing as much as I do. Thankfully, I was accepted shortly after; it was one of the best days of my life. Now on Junior Ski Patrol, I have the opportunity to do what I love – skiing – while also making a positive impact on others(( And here we get to the heart of the essay. The writer wants to help others while doing something they love. It’s a noble pursuit!)) . My team shadows the adult Ski Patrol, and we learn a lot of lessons along the way.

On the mountain (and in life), you never know what challenges might arise. One of the most important things I’ve learned from Junior Ski Patrol is to be prepared for anything. I’ve gotten my CPR and first aid certifications so I’m always prepared to administer life-saving care to anyone who might need it. I know how to pack a bag full of enough essentials to survive harsh weather or injuries.

But ski patrol has also taught me so much more than just how to help others. It has shown me how I work best on a team. I’m not naturally a leader, which is something I’ve always felt ashamed about. After learning from our mentors who all fulfill different roles on their adult Ski Patrol team, I realized that I don’t have to be a leader to be a good team member. The quiet collaborators who can follow the lead, take initiative when needed, and do their jobs really well are just as important as the people who are front-and-center(( An important personal insight.)) .

Being on ski patrol as a high school student has been an incredible journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such a dedicated team. More importantly, I’m proud of the growth I’ve experienced. I went from a person who just loves skiing to a person who is more confident in herself. I no longer feel unprepared or timid. I know exactly how to keep myself safe and work alongside others. While I don’t want to be a professional Ski Patroller or even go into medicine, I know these lessons will serve me well wherever life takes me(( As an AO, I would have been wondering if being on JSP made them want to study medicine, so I appreciate that they answered it for me!)) . But no matter where I end up, when the mountain calls, you know I’ll answer.

AO Notes on Ski Patrol

In this fun hobby-meets-accomplishment essay, the writer shows us their strengths of care and teamwork. I like the crossover between something that they really enjoy and this impressive accomplishment they have of being on Junior Ski Patrol.

  • Lessons learned: The writer makes it very clear what lessons they learned from Junior Ski Patrol. Lessons don’t always have to be this explicit, but I appreciate how the writer really takes the time to reflect on what they’ve learned.
  • Personal insight: Okay, this point is related to the lessons learned. But it’s important to draw out on its own because personal essays are, of course, personal. This topic easily could have been just about skiing down a mountain or administering first aid on patrol. Instead, the writer kept the focus inward to meet the expectations of a personal essay.
  • What’s at stake?: We do get a good sense of personal meaning. But the writer could do a better job of speaking to the significance of this activity to their life. A good question to ask is, “What’s at stake?” What would I have lost or gained if this story had turned out differently? Asking these questions can also help you figure out what it is that you want an admissions officer to learn from your personal statement.

Personal Statement Example #13: The Regulars

One pump of vanilla syrup. Frothed milk. One espresso shot. Caramel drizzle(( Starting with some version of the following sentence would have been a stronger hook.)) . Like a scientist at her bench, I have methodically repeated these steps four days a week for the past two years. During my time as a Starbucks barista, I’ve learned hundreds of recipes and customizations. I know all the secret menu hacks, and I’ve developed several recipes for friends and family too. I pride myself on speed, quality, and memory. My favorite part of the job is the customer service. As one of the busiest locations in the region, I’ve caffeinated thousands. But it’s my regular customers, those whose orders I know like the back of my hand, who have truly impacted me.

Venti Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, hold the vanilla syrup. A busy mom of four, Chelsea is always in a hurry. I try to catch her the moment she enters the store so I can get started right away. Her Venti drink fuels her through school dropoffs and pickups, gymnastics lessons, and evening math homework. Throughout my conversations with her, I’ve learned that Chelsea is a scheduling virtuoso. As someone with ADHD(( This paragraph is almost too much about Chelsea, so this sentence is crucial to bring the focus back to the writer.)) , I became so inspired by her ability to juggle so many people and schedules simultaneously. After asking her for advice, she helped me find a time management system that I can keep up with. I have Chelsea to thank for my improved grades.

Grande dark roast, no room for cream. Mr. Williams is a retired businessman who always tips 100%. Mr. Williams is a quiet man, so it took me months to draw any information from him. Instead of using my over-the-top customer service voice, I eventually learned to be myself. When I got him to open up, I discovered that he was a service worker himself before he made it big in business in his sixties. The truth is, Mr. Williams has tipped me hundreds of dollars throughout my time here, which is extra money that will help me pay for college. He’s taught me the value of quiet generosity(( Let’s be honest. Mr. Williams sounds like a cool guy. But Mr. Williams isn’t applying to college—the writer is! I like that we get small glimpses into who the writer is through this paragraph, but there’s still room for more.)) .

Tall soy London Fog. Sweet Darla gave up coffee twenty-five years ago, but she still loves an occasional treat. When Darla enters, I clear my schedule. She always has stories to tell about the eighty years of life she’s lived. Darla is everything I want to be at that age: she’s spunky, opinionated, and hilarious(( Here we learn a lot about the writer through Darla.)) . Sometimes I tell Darla stories of my own. When I explained the dramatic series of events that led to me landing first chair in my symphony, she said she was going to retell it her bridge club. Making Darla laugh so hard will always be one of my proudest moments.

Grande iced matcha. Taylor is my age and goes to my school. When I took her order for the first time, I felt embarrassed that I needed to work to support myself while she could enjoy expensive drinks. But her kindness softened me. As time went on, I learned that she visited Starbucks so much because she wanted to get out of her house, which wasn’t a very happy place. While I have to take on as many shifts as possible, I still have a happy home to return to afterward. Now Taylor comes in near the end of my shift so we can take our drinks and have dinner at my house.

When you work in customer service, customers enter and exit your life like a revolving door. But the regulars, those special people who draw connections from daily but brief interactions, stick with you for life. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for these people, and I would never have met them if it weren’t for my job as a barista. I haven’t just been making drinks these past two years. I’ve been making friends(( The conclusion does a good job tying all these different stories back together. )) .

AO Notes on The Regulars

No one appreciates a good barista story more than a tired admissions officer on their 30th application of the day! I like the personality that comes through in this essay especially. But this is one of those cases where it’s almost too much about other people.

  • Creative take: Not every college essay needs a creative flair. In fact, sometimes going for “unique” structures can detract from an essay. But I like how the writer uses this format to structure the essay.
  • Organization: This essay isn’t one a reader is bound to get lost in. The introduction sets up the essay well, it’s easy to see the connections between the points the writer is conveying, and the conclusion brings the focus back to the writer.
  • More focus on self: While we do learn about the writer in this essay, we also learn a lot about Chelsea, Mr. Williams, Darla, and Taylor. The writer could have pared down the descriptions of other people—or cut one of the examples altogether—to save more room for personal reflection.

“Bad” Personal Statement Examples

These “bad” essays aren’t necessarily bad. They just aren’t very effective personal statements. Specifically, these two essays make some of the biggest college essay mistakes.

Making mistakes, especially when you’ve never written a personal statement before, is to be expected. We’ve included these examples so you can see what those mistakes look like in real-time. Learning from ineffective examples can be just as helpful as learning from the exceptional ones, so grab your pencil and start taking notes.

Our admissions officers have highlighted what’s working and what’s not. They offer helpful commentary and advice for revisions that you can use to assess whether your own personal statement.

Personal Statement Example #14: The Worst Year

My sophomore year of high school presented me with so many challenges(( This hook definitely gets straight to the point, but it doesn’t draw me in as a reader.)) . I struggled with a lot that year and barely managed to get by. It was the greatest challenge I ever faced.

The year started out like any other but soon went into chaos. My brother suddenly started struggling with drugs and alcohol. Before that, we didn’t know how bad he was hurting. But one night he finally came to us for help because apparently he had been using substances to cope with his emotions. He was scared because he felt like he had reached a breaking point and needed support. My parents didn’t want to help because they thought that he didn’t have a problem but I know my brother and I knew that he didn’t seem like himself. It was so sad to watch him go through that. I tried my best to help him but I was only a kid. I couldn’t really do anything besides tell him I loved him. Eventually my parents decided to get him some help, so he went away for a while and I wrote him letters every week and visited him as much as I could. The treatment he got helped thankfully. He’s doing better now and I am grateful that he is my brother.

But then Covid hit and I couldn’t even leave my house. We thought it would just be a two week vacation to school but it turned into two whole years of my life gone just like that. At the beginning I was stuck in my bedroom while my parents were working their jobs from the living room. Everyone was constantly getting annoyed with each other and driving each other wild. I would be doing a class Zoom in my room and I could hear my parents in a meeting in the living room. I had a hard time not being able to see my friends. I couldn't focus and my grades dropped. Even my teachers didn’t really seem to care. I was sick of staring at black Zoom screens all the time that I even stopped logging on. All of that combined led to me becoming very depressed and anxious. My grades dropped even more because I just couldn’t pay attention or focus enough to do my homework. I ended up getting grades way lower than I ever thought I would that year and I’m so frustrated about it because it felt like I was trying my best but it just wasn’t enough(( Here we see the writer opening up a bit and reflecting on what it was like to go through that experience.)) .

Even once we finally got back in school things didn’t get much better. The pandemic was just too much for my family so my parents ended up getting divorced at the beginning of my junior year. After all we had been through together seeing them separate made me devastated. My dad got an apartment and I had to go back and forth between their houses and pack up all my stuff every time. It was like moving my entire life every weekend. My brother was out of the house by this point so it was just me all by myself. My school was far from my dad’s new place so I’d have a long commute on the weeks I was with him. He was stressed at work and about the divorce and I just ended up feeling so lonely and spending most of my time in my room. My grades got better once online school stopped(( This moment of hope does a lot for moving the essay forward.)) but I had a hard time keeping close relationships with my friends because they didn’t like that I was living far away now and that we couldn’t really hang out anymore.

I couldn’t believe that two years would change so much. Getting through everything really challenged me. But I’m glad to be moving forward with my life.

AO Notes on The Worst Year

This student definitely had a challenging year. It’s clear that they’ve overcome a lot, and I appreciate their willingness to share their struggles. I like that the very last sentence

What this essay does well:

  • Vulnerability: Writing about challenges is never easy, especially when you’re writing to people you don’t know. This writer is bold and unafraid in doing so.

What could be improved on:

  • Not enough positivity: Here’s the thing. You definitely don’t need to be able to spin all of your challenging experiences into positive ones. But the topics you choose to write your college essay about should ultimately conclude on a positive note. You want your college essay to show you in a positive light, so you should choose a topic that lets you find a light, positive, or hopeful resolution.

Personal Statement Example #15: The Strikeout that Changed my Life

The stadium lights shone brightly in my eyes. I stepped up to the plate and drew back my bat. I wiggled my fingers, waiting. The pitcher wound up his arm and threw the ball towards me. My eyes worked overtime to track the ball. I watched as it flew directly towards the center of the plate and made a last-minute curve(( I like this vivid description.)) . It went straight into the catcher’s mitt. “Strike three!” the umpire yelled. That was the time I struck out at the quarter-finals. My team was so close to making it to the championship that we could taste it. It was the bottom of the sixth, and I gave up a valuable chance to score game-winning runs. We ended up losing. I learned a valuable lesson that fateful day. I never wanted to let my team down like that again(( And the writer jumps quickly into the main theme of the essay. Still, the message here could be more specific.)) .

We had advanced through our bracket without much trouble. The other teams were no match for our work ethic and teamwork. We were in perfect sync. As the first baseman, I was ready for any throw that came my way. We were also hitting well. I scored three home runs throughout the course of the tournament. We were a high-functioning machine. But for a machine to work, each cog has to function correctly. When I stepped up to the plate in the sixth inning, I was a broken cog.

After our quarter–final loss, I grieved with my teammates. Then I went off on my own to think. How had I let my team down so badly? How did I not even try to swing at that pitch? It was all my fault. I had to figure out what I had done wrong so I would never make the mistake again. I realized that I had been thinking selfishly. I was concerned about my own performance, my own at-bat averages(( This is a good reflection.)) . I was scared of failing because I didn’t want to be embarrassed. And worrying about all of those things caused me to lose focus and miss my chance to make a difference. Instead, I should have been thinking about how my at-bat would contribute to my team’s overall goal of winning the game.

I returned to where my teammates were congregating, and several of them patted me on the back. The next day, we went over how the game went as a team and talked about how we could improve at our tournament the following weekend. I admitted that I felt like I let the team down. My teammates said that they understood and reassured me that mistakes happen. It wasn’t my failed at-bat alone that lost us the game. Like winning, losing is a team effort. It was a culmination of lots of little issues. At the end of the day, the other team just out-performed us. But we could try hard, practice a lot, and return triumphant next weekend.

Letting my team down was a crushing blow to my self-esteem. I never want to feel like that again, but I know that the experience caused me to grow. Through all of this, I learned that I have to trust myself and my team(( Here we get to the lesson learned.)) . Focusing on myself alone can only get me so far. But focusing on my team can get me to where I want to go. I’m actually thankful that I struck out in that sixth inning because it caused me to learn an important life lesson.

AO Notes on The Strikeout that Changed My Life

This essay on its own definitely isn’t “bad.” As far as essays go, it’s clear, well-written, and organized nicely. But as a college essay, it could be doing more work on the writer’s behalf. See, as an admissions officer, I don’t actually learn that much about the writer from this essay alone. I see that they like baseball, are a good teammate, and can overcome failure. Those are wonderful traits, but they don’t exactly help set this student apart on the admissions committee floor. Instead, the student could make this essay more vulnerable and personal.

  • Writing: The writer uses some great creative writing skills to really set the scene for the readers. In that first paragraph, I really feel like I’m there watching the game.
  • Reflection: Even though the topic could be more significant, the writer does a great job reflecting on the meaning they drew from the experience.
  • Significance: It’s very clear that this topic holds a lot of meaning to the writer. But as a college essay topic, it’s lacking vulnerability and stakes.

Key Takeaways

Writing a personal statement is a difficult ask, especially when you’ve never even read one before. But now, with these fifteen examples in your back pocket, you’re ready to write your own.

If you’re not sure what steps to take next, hop on over to our guide to writing personal statements for advice. You can also find more extensive guidance on the Essay Academy , a comprehensive college essay writing video course and community.

Happy writing! 🥳

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CV Personal Statement Examples and Tips

CV Personal Statement

Your personal statement is the first thing a recruiter or hiring manager will read when flicking through what will usually be a huge pile of CVs. With so much competition, you need a personal statement that grabs their attention for all the right reasons. But how do you write one? Here’s our guide along with a couple of personal statement examples for inspiration.

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is a concise paragraph that sits at the top of your CV just below your name and contact details and tells the reader why you would be a fantastic asset for their company. It should include a summary of your most relevant skills and experience and give the recruiter an insight into your ambitions and character.

Your personal statement should explain:

  • Who you are
  • Your suitability for the role and the value you can add
  • Your career goals

Conveying all that information in just a few sentences is certainly not easy, but with research suggesting that recruiters spend an average of just six seconds reviewing each CV before deciding whether the applicant is a good fit, you must get it right.

How to write a winning personal statement for your CV

No one has your specific skills and experience, so your personal statement must be unique. However, there are some universal tips you can follow.

  • Length, formatting and tone of voice

Probably the biggest challenge you’ll face when writing a personal statement for your CV is keeping it between 50 and 150 words, or around four or five lines of text. It should be clean and concise, formatted consistently and written in the same font and point size as the rest of your CV.

Personal statements can be written in the first (“I am a marine biologist”) or third-person (“Marine biologist looking for”), but whatever voice you choose, keep it consistent throughout your CV.

Recruiters read so much hyperbole and waffle that being honest and understated will help you stand out. This is not The Apprentice, so buzzwords, empty promises and meaningless metaphors should be avoided at all costs.

  • Back up your claims

Cliches like ‘hard worker’ or ‘experienced’ are just empty words that recruiters see hundreds of times a day. Instead, establish your credentials with relevant vocational qualifications or professional memberships you have and quantify the level of experience you have. For example, “I am a RICS qualified surveyor with eight years’ experience working for a property development company”.

  • Include statistics from your career

Including specific data or statistics in your personal statement will immediately make it stand out from the hundreds of others recruiters read every day. Metrics of success are far more memorable than simply listing your achievements. For example, “I introduced a new lead qualification tool that increased sales by 15 percent”.

  • Remove pronouns in the third person

The personal statement on your CV is the one place where it’s okay to talk about yourself in the third person. However, using pronouns, for example, “he is a conscientious worker with 12 years of experience...” is a step too far. Instead, drop the pronouns, so that would become “A conscientious worker with 12 years of experience…”

Personal statement examples

Here are a few examples of personal statements to keep you on the right track and hopefully provide a little inspiration.

Written in the first person by a graduate looking for their first professional role.

I am a recent graduate with a first-class degree in economics, specialising in econometrics and international trade. I have commercial experience in the finance sector courtesy of an internship with a UK corporation, where I developed the technical data engineering skills you are looking for. I have a proven ability to meet deadlines and produce consistently high-quality work, as evidenced by my degree, and would relish the chance to develop my skills within your organisation.

Written in the third person by an experienced purchasing manager looking to climb the ladder.

Purchasing manager with 12 years of experience who wants to progress to a more senior role within the aviation industry. Has developed strong and lasting relationships during previous managerial positions in the sector and wants to put this strong network to good use to add value to your business.

Time to get hired

Writing a winning personal statement that you’re happy with and that summarises your skills and experience effectively in just a few lines will take time. However, using these tips and examples as a guide and editing your personal statement for every role is an important piece of the puzzle.

To hear Guardian Jobs reader Elia’s story and how her Personal Career Management programme helped land her ideal job watch the video .

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Personal Career Management can offer you a  free review to assess your needs and to see which programme is right for you.

To book call Personal Career Management on 01753 888 995 or fill in the contact form .

Personal Career Management are Career Management Partners for the Guardian and are a specialist career coaching and outplacement company.

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Academic Personal Statement Guide + Examples for 2024

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You have a bright future ahead of you in academia and you’ve already found the program of your dreams.

The only problem? 

You have to write an impressive academic personal statement that sets you apart from a sea of applicants.

We know that writing about yourself might not come naturally. And when the academic program you have your sights set on is on the line, it doesn’t make it any easier.

But there’s no need to worry!

We’ve prepared this guide to help you write your academic personal statement and secure your spot in your program of choice.

In this article, we’re going to cover:

  • What Is An Academic Personal Statement?
  • 7 Steps to Writing the Best Academic Personal Statement
  • An Example of a Stellar Academic Personal Statement

Let’s dive in.

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What Is an Academic Personal Statement?

A personal statement is an essential part of the academic application process.

Much like a motivation letter , your academic personal statement serves to demonstrate why you’re the right candidate for the course and sell yourself as a capable student.

Your goal is to show the admissions committee that they’ll benefit from having you in their university as much as you’ll benefit from joining the program.

Academic Vs CV Personal Statement

The term ‘personal statement’ can mean different things depending on your field.

In the world of job hunting, a personal statement usually refers to a few sentences that go at the top of your CV . This paragraph is meant to convey your top skills, relevant experiences, and professional goals to a hiring manager from the get-go and increase your chances of getting an interview.

However, in the world of academia, a personal statement refers to a more in-depth description of you as a candidate. 

In a nutshell, an academic personal statement shows the admissions committee your academic achievements so far, as well as what motivated you to apply and pursue this position.

Personal statements are also often required when applying for certain jobs, much like writing a cover letter . If you’re looking at a position as a faculty member in a university or other academic institution, for example, you might be asked to provide an academic personal statement.

7 Steps to Write an Academic Personal Statement

Preparation is the key to success and this is exactly where our guide comes in handy.

So just follow these steps and you’re sure to secure your spot:

#1. Read the Brief (Carefully!)

Academic personal statements aren’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all piece of writing. 

Typically, every institution has its specific requirements on what candidates should include in their academic personal statement.

To make sure you’re on the right track with your academic personal statement, read the brief carefully. Consider taking notes and highlighting important points from your program’s brief as you go through it.

Pay attention to any specific question the university wants you to answer. If you don’t address everything the admissions board expects, your personal statement will look sloppy and you’ll be considered an inattentive candidate.

Be sure to re-read the brief after you’ve finished writing your academic personal statement, too. This way you can make sure you’ve answered everything adequately and you’ll have the opportunity to correct any slips.

#2. Research the Program

Make sure you do your homework on the academic program you’re applying to.

You can’t write a good academic personal statement without research, let alone a great one. Much like researching your employer , taking the time to learn more about your desired school and personalizing your application can make a huge difference.

For example, you can dive into how your values align with that of the school you’re applying to, and how your experience and interests relate to specific things about the program. The more you focus on how you’re the right fit for this specific position, in this specific program – the better.

Carefully read through the school and program’s official pages since everything you would need to know is probably on the school’s official website. You can also ask current and former students for help but remember that whatever they say should never replace official information when crafting your academic personal statement.

#3. Plan Your Statement

An academic personal statement is meant to explain your academic interests and shouldn’t contain irrelevant details about your personal life.

Focus on why you want to study the course you’ve chosen and provide any information about your achievements so far.

Ask yourself the following questions to get the ball rolling on what to write:

  • Why do you want to study (or work) in this program? How will it benefit you?
  • How do your skills match the position?
  • What makes you stand out from other applicants?
  • What are your exact career aspirations?
  • How can you and your work benefit the institution you’re applying to?
  • If you changed fields, how did you decide to apply in this direction?
  • What insight can you bring thanks to your different experiences?
  • How will this change of field help your future career?

Write down your answer to these questions in the first draft of your academic personal statement.

#4. Look at Example Statements

Don’t hesitate to read other people’s academic personal statements online. They’re a great source of inspiration and can help get rid of any remaining writer’s block.

If you’re struggling to understand how to meet the language and formatting requirements for your academic personal statement, seeing actual examples is the best way to learn.

But be careful – don’t copy any lines you read, no matter how impressive you think they are. 

Most universities run every academic personal statement through intensive plagiarism checking, and even a paraphrased sentence could lead to your application being rejected for plagiarism.

So pay more attention to the overall structure of the academic personal statements you read, rather than copying the exact wording.

#5. Structure the Contents

There should be a cohesive argument that your entire essay follows. Each sentence and paragraph should complement and build on the one that comes before it.

The structure of your personal statement should include:

An intriguing introduction to you as a candidate

The introductory paragraph should grab the admission committee’s attention and keep them engaged.

Here you should be sure to avoid cliches like saying how you’ve “always dreamt” of graduating from this university or of studying this exact program. Instead, give an example of what really influenced you to pursue this dream.

Here’s an example:

  • I’ve always loved reading and since I was a child, it’s been my dream to graduate from Oxford University and contribute to the world of literary analysis. That’s why I spent the past year volunteering at my local writers’ society and giving constructive feedback during workshops and book discussions.
  • It wasn’t until I failed my first essay assignment in secondary school that I realized the depth that lies beneath each sentence in a given text. I began to delve into the rich layers of literary texts and the intricacies of literary analysis became my passion. Although initially challenging, the depth of understanding that this field offers about human emotions, cultural contexts, and narrative structures enthralled me. I found myself questioning the narrative structures and character motivations that I had previously taken for granted, and I was eager to understand how the subtle and often overlooked elements within a text could have a profound impact on its overall interpretation. This need to fundamentally understand a given author’s work has stayed with me since and led me to pursue literary analysis as a postgraduate student.

An engaging body

The main part of your academic personal statement should detail your interests, experience, and knowledge, and how they make you suitable for the position.

This is where you should expand on your motivation and use the following tips:

  • Why this university? Provide strong reasons for your choice, related to your future career or the institution’s reputation.
  • Mention your relevant studies and experience. This includes projects, dissertations, essays, or work experience.
  • Give evidence of key skills you have, such as research, critical thinking, communication, and time management, and explain how you can contribute to the department with them.
  • Say what makes you unique as a candidate and provide an example.
  • Explain who have been the main influences who put you on this path and why they’ve influenced you.
  • Mention other relevant experiences, such as memberships in clubs related to the subject, awards you might have won, or impressive papers you’ve written.
  • Talk about your career aspirations and how the program ties into your goal of achieving them.

Depending on the guidelines of the specific university, you could also divide your academic personal statement’s body with subheadings, such as:

  • Academic background
  • Research interests
  • Methodological approaches
  • Research experience
  • Personal experience
  • Extracurricular activities 
  • Relevant skills
  • Career aspirations

A logical conclusion

Your academic personal statement needs a conclusion that ends on an enthusiastic note.

Make sure the conclusion reiterates the main points from the body of your text.

Your relevant accomplishments and desire to attend this specific program should be clear to any reader.

#6. Pay Attention to the Language

When writing the first draft of your academic personal statement, pay attention to the language and tone you’re using.

An academic personal statement is also a formal text, so your writing should reflect that. Colloquialisms aren’t appropriate, as they would take away from the well-mannered impression you want to give the admissions committee.

However, you also want your personal statement to be straightforward and avoid any complex jargon from your field of study.

For example, your opening sentence shouldn’t be overly complicated. You should communicate everything as clearly as possible, and be inclusive to those outside of your field of study since they might be on the admissions board that’s reading your academic personal statement.

Make sure that the tone throughout your text is positive and conveys your enthusiasm for the program. Your academic personal statement should show the admissions committee that you really want to be there, and why that’s beneficial to everyone involved.

#7. Proofread Your Statement

This step probably isn’t surprising to you but it’s worth paying attention to.

Your academic personal statement is a very formal document and it should be spotless. 

So, make sure it adheres to academic writing conventions . For example, contractions like “I’m” instead of “I am” are informal, and should be avoided.

Mistakes like these are very common when writing about yourself, particularly when you’re used to describing yourself in informal environments.

Carefully proofread your academic personal statement, then run it through a grammar checker like Grammarly or Quillbot, then proofread it again.

The tiniest grammar mistake or typo could make the admissions board reject your application.

Academic Personal Statement Example

Ever since my first encounter with the enchanting worlds spun by Flaubert, Balzac, and Proust, my intellectual pursuits have gravitated toward French literature. With an undergraduate degree focused on French Language and Literature, I have been fortunate to explore my passions both theoretically and empirically, embedding them within broader themes of cultural theory and comparative literature. It is with great excitement that I apply for the postgraduate research position in the French Literature program at Kent University, with the aim of contributing novel scholarly perspectives to this captivating field.

Academic Background and Research Interests

During my undergraduate studies, I delved deeply into the realms of 19th-century Realism and Naturalism. My senior thesis, which examined the dialectics of morality and social structures in Balzac's "La Comédie Humaine," was not merely an academic exercise; it served as a crucible where my theoretical understandings were rigorously tested. This research experience intensified my interest in the complex interplay between literature and societal norms, a theme I am eager to further explore in my postgraduate work.

Methodological Approaches

My academic approach is fundamentally interdisciplinary. I strongly believe that literature should not be studied in a vacuum; rather, it should be contextualized within historical, sociological, and psychological paradigms. During a semester abroad in Paris, I took courses in cultural anthropology and French history, an enriching experience that complemented my literature-focused studies. This holistic approach will enable me to contribute a multifaceted perspective to the research endeavors at Kent University.

Previous Research and Scholarly Engagements

My scholarly activities have also extended beyond the classroom. Last summer, I participated in an international conference on French Literature and Post-Colonial Theory, presenting a paper on the depictions of colonial landscapes in Dumas' adventure novels. The opportunity to engage with academics from various disciplines provided me with fresh insights and underscored the importance of collaborative research. Further, I've had the honor of having a review article published in the Sheffield Journal of Contemporary Literary Explorations, where I critiqued a groundbreaking new translation of Verne's works.

Extracurricular Contributions and Skills

In addition to my academic achievements, I have sought to enrich my department’s intellectual community. I served as the editor of our departmental journal and organized a series of seminars featuring guest speakers from the worlds of academia and publishing. My strong organizational skills, combined with proficiency in both written and spoken French and English, make me a versatile candidate capable of adding value to the French Literature program’s broader objectives.

To summarize, my deep-rooted passion for French literature, fortified by rigorous academic training and interdisciplinary methodologies, makes me an ideal candidate for the postgraduate research position in your esteemed program. The prospect of contributing to academic discourse at Kent University is an opportunity I find deeply compelling. I am especially excited about the potential for collaborative research and interdisciplinary inquiries, which aligns perfectly with my academic philosophy. I am fully committed to leveraging my skills, experiences, and enthusiasm to make a substantive scholarly contribution to the study of French Literature. Thank you for considering my application; I am keenly looking forward to the possibility of furthering my academic journey in this vibrant intellectual community.

FAQs on Academic Personal Statements

If you’re wondering anything else about academic personal statements, check out the answers to the most frequently asked questions related to them here:

#1. How do you start a personal statement for an academic job?

Applying for an academic job is different from applying for a position as a student. First, you need to establish your qualifications and enthusiasm for the role immediately.

Start by explaining your current status, for example, as a postdoctoral researcher or an experienced member of the faculty, and specify the position you are applying for. Then follow up with your research interests or personal philosophy towards teaching.

You can add a personal anecdote or compelling fact that summarizes your academic journey so far, or your passion for the field. After that, your academic personal statement can go deeper into the qualifications from your academic CV and how you’re a great fit for the position.

#2. How do I introduce myself in an academic personal statement?

The introduction of your academic personal statement is the key to grabbing the attention of the admissions committee.

Start by stating the field or subject that interests you, and why. You can share a specific personal anecdote or observation that led you to this academic pursuit and set the stage for the detailed explanation in your main body.

The goal of your introduction is to give the reader a sense of who you are, what drives you, and why you would be a valuable addition to their department.

#3. Is an academic personal statement like an essay?

Yes, an academic personal statement can be considered a type of essay.

Both essays and academic personal statements are structured forms of writing that are meant to deliver a coherent argument and are divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion. They provide supporting evidence to prove the point and maintain a logical flow to guide the reader to the final conclusion.

However, essays tend to be objective and explore a specific topic or question in depth. Academic personal statements use similar techniques but they present the candidate’s qualifications, experiences, and aspirations in a way that’s meant to persuade the admissions committee.

#4. How long is an academic personal statement?

Typically, an academic personal statement is between 500 and 1000 words long.

The exact length of the text varies depending on the university and program you’re applying to. You should always check the specific requirements for your desired program, and stick to the guidelines you find.

However, if the university you’re applying to doesn’t specify a word count, you should aim for one to two pages.

#5. What do I avoid in an academic personal statement?

Since your personal statement is a crucial part of your academic application, it’s important to avoid any common mistakes.

Make sure the content of your academic personal statement isn’t too generic. Its goal is to give insight into you as an individual, beyond what can be read in your CV . 

You should also avoid cramming too many points in your text. Your academic personal statement should follow a logical flow, and focus on the relevance of what you’re sharing about yourself and how it relates to the academic program you’re pursuing.

Key Takeaways

And that concludes our guide to writing an academic personal statement!

We hope you feel more confident when crafting your application for that academic program or faculty position you have your sights set on.

Now let’s recap what we talked about so far:

  • Academic personal statements are very different from CV personal statements. While CV personal statements are brief paragraphs at the top of the page, an academic personal statement is an in-depth text that details why you’re interested in a given position, and what makes you a good candidate.
  • The guidelines on academic personal statements vary according to the institution you’re applying to. Read the brief very carefully, and pay attention to what it says about word count and questions your personal statement should answer. Any mistakes here could result in rejection.
  • There are differences between applying for a postgraduate program and applying for a faculty position. But in both cases, you should research the exact place you want to apply to and adjust your application accordingly to match the institution’s values.
  • Always proofread your academic personal statement before sending it, even if you’re sure there are no errors.

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Gre prep online guides and tips, 3 successful graduate school personal statement examples.

example of career personal statement

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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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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example of career personal statement

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

example of career personal statement

Status.net

50 Inspiring Examples of Career Goal Statements

By Status.net Editorial Team on February 7, 2024 — 12 minutes to read

A career goal statement is a clear and concise description of your professional aspirations: it outlines what you aim to achieve in your career path, providing direction and serving as a guide for your professional decisions. Crafting this statement requires self-reflection to identify what truly matters to you in your career.

Think of your career goal statement as a compass. It helps you navigate through opportunities and choices, aligning them with your long-term objectives. A well-defined goal statement includes specific job titles or roles, industry preferences, skills you want to acquire or use, and the values that matter to you in a work environment.

For example, your statement might be, “I aim to become a Senior Software Developer at a tech company that values innovation, in the next five years.” This statement is direct, time-bound, and reflects personal and professional values.

When writing your own career goal statement, start by asking yourself some questions:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • Where do I see myself in five, ten, or fifteen years?
  • What skills do I need to develop to reach my goals?

Your statement can evolve as your career advances and your goals change. Remember, it’s a living document meant to grow along with you. Keep it precise, make it inspiring for yourself, and let it reflect who you are and who you want to become professionally. By doing so, you’ll create a powerful tool to steer your career decisions and help achieve your ambitions.

Components of a Strong Career Goal Statement

A strong career goal statement effectively communicates where you see yourself in the future and how you plan to get there. The keys to crafting this include clarity in your aspirations and how your current path aligns with your long-term objectives.

Clarity and Specificity

Your career goal statement should clearly articulate the position you’re aiming for and the steps you plan to take to achieve it. For example, instead of saying “I want to grow in the tech industry,” specify “My goal is to become a Senior Software Engineer at a renowned tech firm within the next five years by honing my skills in mobile applications development and leadership.”

Alignment with Career Objectives

Ensure that your statement aligns with your broader career objectives. For instance, if you’re determined to enter the field of environmental sustainability, your goal statement could specify, “I will secure a role as a Sustainability Project Manager by gaining expertise in renewable energy solutions and contributing to conservation projects.”

Brevity and Conciseness

Keep your statement concise; it shouldn’t be longer than a short paragraph. A crisp, well-worded statement would look like, “Within three years, I aim to advance to a Lead Graphic Designer position by consistently delivering innovative designs and taking on more strategic projects.”

Personal Motivation

Include a sentence about what drives you towards this goal, which gives a personal touch to your career goal statement. You might say, “I am committed to becoming an industry-recognized financial analyst by developing cutting-edge quantitative models, fueled by my passion for data-driven decision making.”

The Purpose of Career Goal Statements

A career goal statement helps you and others understand where you’re aiming in your professional life. It serves as both a guide and a benchmark for your career progression.

Professional Development

Your career goal statement is a powerful tool for professional development. It’s a declaration of your ambitions, which often falls into specific categories like acquiring new skills, achieving certifications, or reaching a new position. For example, you might aim to become a certified project manager within the next two years, highlighting the steps and skills you’ll need to get there.

Job Search Focus

When you’re on the job hunt, having a career goal statement gives you a lens to evaluate potential job opportunities. Imagine you’re an engineer seeking roles in renewable energy projects; your career goal statement would specify this preference, allowing you to target your job search and tailor your applications to match your aspirations.

Performance Management

During performance evaluations, your career goal statement offers a clear outline of what success looks like for you. It can act as a communication tool between you and your supervisor, ensuring that you’re both aligned on your targets. If your goal is to lead a team, your performance metrics might include leadership training and successful project outcomes.

Personal Reflection and Growth

Your career statement doubles as a checkpoint for personal reflection and growth. By setting specific goals like enhancing your public speaking skills or learning a new programming language, you create a framework for personal progress, tying these improvements back to your broader career objectives.

Writing Your Career Goal Statement

A career goal statement is a clear and concise description of your professional aspirations. It’s important to chart a course for your career by setting strategic goals and outlining the steps you plan to take to achieve them.

Self-Assessment

Start by evaluating your interests, strengths, weaknesses, and values. This step helps you align your career trajectory with your personal attributes and ambitions.

  • If you enjoy creative problem-solving, you might aim for a role in strategic development.
  • Someone with a natural talent for communication might target a career in public relations.

Research and Exploration

Learn about the industries and positions that align with your interests and skills. Find out what qualifications you may need and what career advancement may look like in those roles.

  • Researching the field of data science might show you the importance of skills like programming and data analysis.
  • Exploring the healthcare industry could lead you to consider roles ranging from a health administrator to a nurse practitioner.

Articulating Your Goals

Clearly state your short-term and long-term career objectives. Make them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

  • Short-term goal: Completing a professional certification in digital marketing within the next year.
  • Long-term goal: Becoming a chief marketing officer at a technology company within the next ten years.

Revising and Refining

Your career goals are not set in stone. Periodically review and adjust them to reflect your growing skills, changes in the industry, and personal life changes.

  • Revising your goal to include leadership skills if you’re aiming for management positions.
  • Refining your goals to focus more on work-life balance if personal circumstances change.

Examples of Career Goal Statements

When crafting your career goal statement, be specific and align your goals with your desired career path. This section will provide examples for different career stages to guide you.

For Recent Graduates

As a recent graduate, your goal statement should reflect your eagerness to apply your education in a practical setting and grow professionally. For example:

  • “My goal is to secure a role as a software developer at a forward-thinking tech company where I can contribute to innovative projects and hone my coding skills in real-world applications.”

For Mid-Career Professionals

For you in mid-career, a statement should focus on advancing your current skills and taking on larger responsibilities. For instance:

  • “I aim to elevate my expertise in digital marketing to become a marketing manager, where I can lead strategic campaigns and impact the company’s growth directly.”

For Career Changers

As someone looking to change careers, your statement needs to leverage your transferable skills and express your commitment to the new field. Consider this example:

  • “I intend to transition into the field of data analysis, leveraging my extensive background in market research to deliver actionable insights and drive decision-making processes.”

For Executive-Level Positions

Your executive career goal statement needs to showcase your vision for leadership and your ability to steer the company to new heights. An example could be:

  • “I am determined to apply my 15 years of managerial experience to a Chief Operations Officer role, focusing on optimizing company-wide operations to boost profitability and efficiency.”

50 Examples of Career Goal Statements

  • 1. “To secure a challenging position in a reputable organization to expand my learnings, knowledge, and skills.”
  • 2. “Seeking a role at (…) Company where I can contribute to the team’s success while developing my skills as an accountant.”
  • 3. “To achieve a lead position in software development that allows me to design innovative solutions and manage a dynamic team.”
  • 4. “To become a primary school teacher that inspires young minds and fosters a love of learning.”
  • 5. “Aiming to leverage my experience in customer service to become a leading sales representative within the next five years.”
  • 6. “To grow into a senior role within the marketing department, contributing to the company’s strategic goals and brand development.”
  • 7. “Seeking a position as a clinical practice assistant for a health organization that focuses on the development of innovative medical treatments.”
  • 8. “To secure a position as a human resources manager and contribute to an organization’s employee engagement and professional development strategies.”
  • 9. “My goal is to become a project manager within a progressive tech company, leading innovative projects to successful completion.”
  • 10. “Aspiring to be a top journalist within a major media outlet, reporting on significant global events that shape our world.”
  • 11. “To develop a career in finance, eventually becoming a chief financial officer for a well-established corporation.”
  • 12. “To obtain a managerial position in the hospitality industry, providing exceptional guest experiences and leading a successful team.”
  • 13. “Looking to apply my graphic design skills in a dynamic advertising agency, producing high-quality work for a variety of clients.”
  • 14. “To establish myself as a leading real estate agent within the community, known for diligently serving clients and achieving their property dreams.”
  • 15. “To become a senior software engineer, specializing in machine learning and artificial intelligence, contributing to cutting-edge technology advancements.”
  • 16. “Aspire to join an international non-profit organization, focusing on human rights advocacy and contributing to meaningful change.”
  • 17. “To earn a position as a lead researcher in a top-tier biotech firm, focusing on the development of life-saving pharmaceuticals.”
  • 18. “To be recognized as an expert in environmental law, working to protect natural resources and promote sustainability.”
  • 19. “To secure a role as an art director within a prestigious agency, driving creative strategy and inspiring a team of designers.”
  • 20. “Aiming to become a chief operations officer, optimizing organizational processes and enhancing overall efficiency.”
  • 21. “To advance my career in the field of education technology, developing innovative tools that facilitate learning and growth.”
  • 22. “Seeking to become a master electrician, overseeing complex projects and mentoring apprentices in the trade.”
  • 23. “To climb the ranks to a senior data analyst role, transforming data into actionable insights that drive business strategy.”
  • 24. “To become a leading figure in digital marketing, known for crafting high-impact strategies that generate measurable results.”
  • 25. “Aspiring to be an executive chef in a Michelin-starred restaurant, creating world-class cuisine and leading a top-tier culinary team.”
  • 26. “To secure a position as a cybersecurity expert, protecting sensitive information from threats and vulnerabilities.”
  • 27. “Aiming to be a respected leader in the field of public health, influencing policy and improving community health outcomes.”
  • 28. “To establish a career as a professional musician, performing internationally and sharing my passion for music with diverse audiences.”
  • 29. “Seeking a role as an aerospace engineer with a focus on sustainable design and innovation in air travel.”
  • 30. “To become a leading architect, known for designing eco-friendly and innovative structures that enhance the urban landscape.”
  • 31. “To grow into a senior role in supply chain management, optimizing logistics and contributing to the company’s profitability.”
  • 32. “Aspiring to become a senior content creator, producing engaging and informative content that resonates with a wide audience.”
  • 33. “To secure a position as a labor and delivery nurse, providing compassionate care and supporting families during a pivotal life event.”
  • 34. “To become a principal consultant, offering expert advice and solutions to businesses in my area of expertise.”
  • 35. “Aiming to be a top sales manager, driving team performance and exceeding company sales targets consistently.”
  • 36. “To secure a leadership position within the field of environmental science, contributing to research and advocacy for climate change mitigation.”
  • 37. “To become a recognized expert in user experience design, creating intuitive and user-friendly digital products.”
  • 38. “Seeking a role as a professional event planner, executing unforgettable events that exceed client expectations.”
  • 39. “To advance to a senior technical writer position, producing clear and concise documentation that supports product development.”
  • 40. “Aspiring to be a chief diversity officer, fostering an inclusive workplace culture where all employees can thrive.”
  • 41. “To become a lead mechanical engineer in the automotive industry, contributing to the development of innovative and efficient vehicles.”
  • 42. “To secure a position as a business analyst, helping organizations to improve processes and systems for better performance.”
  • 43. “Aiming to become a senior environmental consultant, providing actionable strategies for sustainable business practices.”
  • 44. “To establish myself as a professional photographer, capturing moments and stories through my lens for global publications.”
  • 45. “Seeking a role as an investment banker, helping companies to grow and investors to achieve their financial goals.”
  • 46. “To become a thought leader in digital transformation, guiding enterprises through the integration of new technologies.”
  • 47. “Aspiring to be a senior policy advisor, influencing legislation and policy decisions that impact the public sector.”
  • 48. “To secure a position as a professional interpreter, facilitating communication in multiple languages for international organizations.”
  • 49. “Aiming to become a leading expert in nutritional science, contributing to healthier lifestyles and dietary choices.”
  • 50. “To establish a career as a professional speaker and author, sharing my expertise and inspiring others in my field.”

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you write an effective career goal statement for your resume.

When you write a career goal statement for your resume, start by reflecting on your strengths, skills, and experiences. Then, identify the kind of position you’re aiming for and how your career path aligns with the goals of the company. Use action words and quantify achievements where possible.

What are some examples of short-term career goals in professional development?

Short-term career goals might include obtaining a professional certification, improving specific job-related skills such as public speaking or technical proficiency, or networking to connect with industry leaders. These goals are typically achievable within a few months to two years.

What should be included in a personal career goal statement?

Your personal career goal statement should include your career interests, the competencies you wish to utilize, the type of environment you thrive in, and how you see your career progressing. It gives employers a glimpse into your aspirations and professional philosophy.

Can you give examples of comprehensive goal statements for students?

An example for a student might be: “Graduate with a degree in Environmental Science and secure an internship with a leading sustainability organization, to contribute to effective climate change solutions.” This states the education aim and the practical, immediate objective after graduation.

How do you frame a career goal statement for entry into graduate school?

A career goal statement for graduate school should express your academic interests, how the program aligns with your career plans, and what you intend to accomplish professionally with the advanced degree. This could be working towards a specific research field or role in academia.

What elements make up a compelling and succinct one-sentence career goal?

A compelling one-sentence career goal is specific, mentioning the desired industry or role, is realistic, and includes a timeframe. For example, “To become a certified project manager within the next year and lead technology-related projects in a Fortune 500 company.”

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Soft Skills

11 minute read

Your Guide to Career Goals Statements (and Why You Need One)

Kat Boogaard

Kat Boogaard

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Imagine that it’s a Monday morning, and you’ve just arrived at the office. You sit down at your desk, ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Now, tell me this: What’s on your mind?

Are you thinking through the meetings on your schedule? The emails that need to be answered? The tasks that must be completed that day? All of the above?

If so, you aren’t alone. Our workdays are busy, which means our minds are often consumed by what’s right in front of us. We take things day by day.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that (after all, that stuff does need to get done). But here’s the problem: It’s far too easy to become overwhelmed by those immediate things, that we neglect to zoom out and get a broader view of what we’re actually working toward (beyond completing that day’s to-do list).

This is exactly where a career goals statement comes in handy. It reminds you of your main objective and gives you a greater sense of direction. So let's look at some career goals statement examples!

Career-goals-statement-examples

What exactly is a career goals statement?

As the name implies, a career goals statement is your personal vision for the future of your career. Think of it as the ultimate target that you’re aiming toward.

For example, perhaps you’re currently employed as a marketing analyst, but your long-term career plan is to start your own marketing agency that primarily serves software clients. Or maybe you’re interested in  starting a small business  in a different field. Your career goals statement should formally document that objective.   Your career goals statement should formally document that objective.

What exactly is meant by “formally document”? Put simply, your goals statement should be written down—it’s not just something that lives in the back of your brain. We’ll talk more about why that’s important soon. But with all of that in mind, here’s what that career goals statement could look like:

I will start my own agency that provides an array of marketing services to clients in the software industry by the year 2025. I will accomplish this by maximizing any marketing position I fill in order to refine my skills, getting involved at community and social events to strengthen my connections, and scheduling informational interviews with current agency owners.

Many graduate schools actually require that a goals statement (otherwise referred to as a personal statement or statement of purpose) or a similar essay be submitted with a student’s application materials.

However, for the sake of simplicity, we’re going to focus on career goals statements that are used personally—for people who want to formalize their objectives and increase their understanding of what they’re working toward in their careers.

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Why does your career goals statement matter?

At first glance, a career goals statement might seem like an unnecessary formality. But make no mistake, working on your own career goals statement comes with several benefits.

1. It forces you to ask yourself the hard questions

Chances are, your average workday is full of questions. Should you do this or that first? Where’d you put that important file? What should you grab for lunch? Do you have time to snag another coffee ahead of that meeting?

Yes, you’re asking yourself plenty of questions—but you probably aren’t taking any time to reflect on the really important ones. When’s the last time you’ve checked in with yourself about things like:

  • What do you envision for your career in another 10 years?
  • What more can you do to work toward that vision?
  • What tasks or projects make you feel most fulfilled ?
  • What tasks or projects make you feel most drained?

Those are exactly the types of questions you’ll need to answer when creating your own career goals statement, and that chance for reflection is valuable for ensuring you don’t get caught up in the minutiae of your day-to-day.

2. It gives you a sense of direction

Have you ever felt sort of rudderless in your career? Like you were just clocking in and out each day for nothing more than a paycheck?

This is another benefit of creating your own career goals statement: It breaks you out of the monotony, dangles a carrot in front of your face, and renews your sense of motivation.

That’s because, as the Goal-Setting Theory explains, goals themselves are incredibly motivating. You feel much more inspired to get to work when you actually have a clear idea of what you’re working toward.

Additionally, focusing on the end game allows you to get a stronger grasp on what skills you’ll need to develop or refine in order to make that goal a reality.

3. It increases your accountability

There’s something almost intimidating about writing your goal down, isn’t there? You’ve documented it—it’s real, and now there’s a greater sense of accountability.

As frightening as it might seem, that’s actually a positive thing. Research shows that people who are able to vividly picture or describe their own goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to actually achieve them. What better way to get that clarity than by writing that objective down?

Plus, doing so will help make that goal stick. Other studies show that writing things down improves your memory of them.

5 tips to write your own career goals statement

A career goals statement offers numerous benefits. But what do you need to know to write one for yourself? Let’s cover five tips you should put into play.

1. Invest the time in reflection

Remember when we talked about the opportunity for self-reflection above? Before jumping right in with scribbling down your career goals statement, make sure you actually take the time to do that

This will help you avoid setting a goal that you think you should have and instead focus on one that you want to have.

That’s the most important piece of a goal: It should be something that you actually want to achieve. Setting one only because you think it’s expected of you ultimately won’t do you any good.

2. Get specific

In order for a goal to be impactful and provide the necessary sense of direction, it needs to be specific. Something general like “climb the ladder” or “earn more money” is too ambiguous to ignite any motivation.

When establishing your career goals statement, try using the SMART goals framework. Here’s what that stands for:

Specific: Clearly state what you plan to accomplish (i.e. “start my own marketing agency focused on software clients”).

Measurable: Similarly, outline what your benchmark for success is so that you know when you’ve actually achieved your goal.

Achievable: You don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment, so make sure that your goal isn’t so lofty that it’s unattainable.

Relevant: Ensure that what you want to accomplish is actually relevant to you (this is where that self-reflection really comes in handy!).

Time-bound: A goal is nothing without a deadline for when you plan to achieve it by. Your career goals statement should be somewhat long-term (and not something you want to accomplish by next week). But “long-term” can mean six months to some people and 20 years to others. Get clear on exactly when you want to reach this objective.

3. Use confident language

Your career goals statement isn’t the place for wishy-washy and noncommittal phrases. There’s no starting with, “I really want to...” or “I really hope I can…”

Open your career goals statement with a certain and confident, “ I will .” Not only does that phrase further remove any ambiguity, but it also gives you a nice nugget of encouragement whenever you refer back to it.

4. Develop an action plan

Setting a goal is a great start, but setting a finish line for yourself means nothing if you don’t understand what you’ll do to cross it.

The latter part of your career goals statement should outline the steps you’ll take to accomplish that goal. This gives you a roadmap that you can follow, rather than just saddling yourself with an objective and feeling clueless about how to get started.

5. Be flexible

Here’s one more thing that’s important to recognize: Goals change. Of course, the very purpose of your career goals statement is to give yourself something long-term to work toward, but that doesn’t mean it’ll always be set in stone.

What if after talking to some other agency owners you decide that business ownership really isn’t for you? Or what if you have personal circumstances come up that require you to remain in traditional employment for a while—meaning the 2025 deadline is no longer realistic? Or what if you achieve your goal and need to come up with a brand new one?

Whether good or bad, these things happen, and you need to be flexible and willing to roll with the punches.

If and when your goal shifts, don’t completely trash or delete your previous goal. Instead, keep it and write an entirely new one. It’s interesting to see how your objectives evolve over time, and that progression can actually be quite enlightening and motivating.

Career-goals-statement-examples

Get inspired: 5 career goals statement examples you can learn from

Nothing helps provide some clarity like a solid sample. So with all of the above tips in mind, let’s take a look at a few different career goals statement examples that you can use as inspiration for writing your own .

Career goals statement example #1:

I will be promoted to a Project Lead at CompanyXYZ within the next five years. To do so, I will refine my project management skills, obtain my PMP Certification , and express my desire for growth and advancement to my current supervisor.

Career goals statement example #2:

I will land a job as a Data Analyst at a large financial institution by the end of the year. To accomplish this goal, I will improve my skills in Excel and PowerQuery and connect with other Data Analysts in my network to find out more about their job search processes.

Career goals statement example #3:

I will foster a positive reputation and secure a public speaking gig for a session of over 300 attendees within the next calendar year. I will do this by continuing to refine my public speaking abilities and networking with conference planners in my industry.

Career goals statement example #4:

I will pursue and complete a career change from a Graphic Designer to a Web Developer within three years. To make this happen, I will return to school to get my Associate Degree in Web Development and complete online courses that cover all of the major programming languages.

Career goals statement example #5:

I will gain a Certified Public Accountant license within a year. In order to achieve this, I'll create a study plan and I'll take a CPA exam review course . I'm going to study each day for 2-3 hours after work to pass the CPA exam.

What should you do with your career goals statement?

You did it—you implemented the tips and followed the examples, and now you’re equipped with your own career goals statement. Uhh...now what? What do you do with it?

Keep it somewhere safe. Better yet, keep it somewhere you can easily accessible so that you can refer to it whenever you need a gentle reminder of what you’re working so hard for.

Whether you had a bad day or just need to be encouraged that your career is about so much more than churning through your daily to-do list, your career goals statement will help you step back and get the perspective that’s so easy to lose sight of in your everyday life.

Need to level-up your own skills to make your career goal a reality? Check out all of GoSkills courses and start making things happen.

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Kat Boogaard

Kat is a writer specializing in career, self-development, and productivity topics. When she escapes her computer, she enjoys reading, hiking, golfing, and dishing out tips for prospective freelancers on her website.

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