How to Write a Personal Statement for a Master's Program

Use the personal statement to convince the admissions committee that you are passionate about your field.
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Half the battle of writing a convincing personal statement for a master's program is understanding the statement’s purpose. With thousands of qualified students competing for just a few dozen seats, admissions committees look for ways to connect personally with each applicant. Personal statements tell the committee what makes you tick, how you developed a passion for a field and why you think their school offers training that can’t be beat. Typically, law and medical schools allow you to select your own theme, while business and liberal arts programs want statements that respond to pointed questions.

Consider your aptitude for the field you’ve chosen. Recall a past experience that demonstrates your special skills or relevant knowledge. For example, a former volunteer with the Peace Corps might be particularly suited to graduate studies in Third World cultures.

Review your educational history for experiences that prove you can handle graduate-level training. For example, can you show that you worked full time during college and yet still maintained an A average?

Consider how to account for gaps in schooling or low grades. For example, did an illness make you skip semesters or affect your ability to complete assignments on time?

Gather your school transcripts and employment documents. Make a list of teachers, employers, dates of employment and special courses taken. Check the spelling of names and confirm dates. Refer to this list when writing the personal statement.

Research the school and note its distinctive features and its faculty members' research interests. Use this information to explain why you are applying to that specific school.

Draft an introduction that hooks the reader. Open with an anecdote that reveals the special skills considered in Step 1. Relate the anecdote to your chosen profession.

Write the body of the statement: Describe your interest in the field, discuss the experiences demonstrating your aptitude for graduate studies that you considered in Step 2 and explain any personal setbacks that you thought of in Step 3. Use professional jargon where appropriate and project a confident tone.

Conclude with a concise summary of major points. Reiterate your interest in the field and your preference for that particular program.

Proofread the statement for content and mechanics. Check that you’ve answered the question fully and offered specifics to support your statements. Make sure all paragraphs hang on one topic idea. Correct misspelled words and grammatical errors. Pare down the statement if it spans more than three pages.

  • Applicants applying to several schools should resist the urge to develop one blanket answer for all applications -- instead, tailor at least one paragraph in the statement to each specific school.

Michele Vrouvas has been writing professionally since 2007. In addition to articles for online publications, she is a litigation paralegal and has been a reporter for several local newspapers. A former teacher, Vrouvas also worked as a professional cook for five years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Caldwell College.