Skip navigation

IONA College Logo | Go to Home Page

Personal Statement Guidelines

(Adapted from
When applying to graduate school, you may be asked to provide a personal statement along with your application, resume, and letters of recommendation. The purpose of the personal statement is to demonstrate how you would make the most of the graduate school experience. It takes dedication, time, and focus to pursue an advanced degree. The personal statement is important because admissions committees want to see if you have what it takes to succeed in graduate school.

What do graduate schools want to know?

Different schools will give you different guidelines for the personal statement. Essentially, they’re all asking for
the following pieces of information:
  • What you wish to study in graduate school?
  • Why you want to study it?
  • What experience you have in your field?
  • What you plan to do with your degree when it’s completed?
Admissions committees look for candidates who can clearly communicate their professional interests that have
developed from their experience in an intelligent manner. That said, your statement should convey that you have a strong interest and knowledge in your chosen field. It should also demonstrate that you have the commitment and drive to remain committed for this potentially lengthy endeavor.
However you address these points, it’s important that you answer the questions asked in the guidelines. Being straightforward and direct is more appropriate than being creative or subtle.

Mistakes to Avoid

Sometimes grad school candidates make the mistake of including information that is too personal or is irrelevant in the hopes of demonstrating how well-rounded they are. While this may have been appropriate when applying to colleges, grad schools have less of an interest in this. Instead, they look for great minds who will achieve mastery in a specific subject. They are more likely to be interested in activities that speak to your suitability for graduate work or relate to your professional goals. Additionally, you will have to work with diverse colleagues who will sometimes work closely with you. Talk about any experience in school, work, or activities that highlight those abilities.

Final Tips

  • Show your personal statement to those you respect and admire on a professional level (perhaps professors/advisors who will be writing your letters of recommendation) to obtain optimal feedback. These people know you from a different perspective and can provide advice to revise it if needed.
  • Have someone proofread it for grammatical and spelling purposes. A fresh set of eyes may spot something you may have missed.
  • Customize your personal statement for each school in which you plan to apply. The information can be “recycled”, but be sure to change the presentation to fit each school’s specific program. This sends the “statement” that you are a good fit for your program of choice.
Online Source:

Sample Personal Statement

Below is a sample personal statement written by a candidate for a Career Development program:
The field of Career Development fascinates me. When meeting new people, I enjoy learning about them and how or why they chose their careers. This is something that I encountered frequently while working in Human Resources. I was initially hired as a receptionist and was later promoted to the position of Employment Assistant in the Human Resources Department of a major healthcare institution. In this role, I interviewed candidates for open positions throughout the institution, extended offers of employment, helped orient newly hired employees to the facility. The field of Human Resources also interests me. However, I see myself working in a new role that will allow me to utilize my experience I obtained, interpersonal and presentation skills, and applying them in a different context. This is why I am interested in applying for candidacy within XYZ College’s Career Development Masters Program.
While I do not have formal experience in the area of Career Development, I make up for it with my desire to learn all aspects of the field from counseling advisees to operations. As an undergraduate student, I frequently worked with my career advisor from help with choosing a major in sophomore year to landing internships in the field of Human Resources to supplement my coursework in Psychology. I always had productive experiences with my career advisor, and reflecting on that experience fills me with excitement and joy. I want to be the person that students come to when they need career guidance and encouragement. I have been complimented on my interpersonal skills when interacting with people from diverse backgrounds, and how I make clients and colleagues feel at ease. These skills are essential when working with clients in an advisory role.
Upon completion of my advanced degree, my goal is to start a new career in higher education by working as a career counselor and progressively obtaining more responsibility in this area. I am excited about this prospect because it will give me the chance to work with a younger population so that they will know how to conduct themselves in a professional manner right out of college. I can share my past experiences with them so they will hopefully avoid common mistakes. Additionally, I will advise students about professional etiquette from the viewpoint of a former Human Resources representative.