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examples of personal statements for grad school in social work

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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examples of personal statements for grad school in social work

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

examples of personal statements for grad school in social work

Social Work Degrees

How to Write an Effective Personal Statement for Grad School

examples of personal statements for grad school in social work

Written by Michelle, Founder of MSW Helper

Schools of social work are looking for your ability to think critically and contribute to the social work field. This is more important than your grades and experience. I know this because I’ve seen people with high grades and a ton of experience get rejected from the program because they weren’t able to articulate their critical thinking skills (and I’ve seen it go the other way too, where applicants with low grades and little experience get accepted because of their strong personal statement).

So, let’s talk about how you can write an effective personal statement for your grad school application.

examples of personal statements for grad school in social work

Michelle is the Founder of MSW Helper, where she helps Master of Social Work Applicants write top notch personal statements for grad school. Michelle understands how stressful applying to the MSW can be, and strives to help applicants feel confident about their applications. 

Check out her website to learn more: https://www.mswhelper.com/

What schools of social work are looking for

In my experience, most schools of social work ask about these key areas:

  • Your experiences that motivated you to become a social worker, including personal, professional, academic, and other experiences
  • A discussion of a social problem and how social workers can work towards solving it
  • Your goals as a social worker

In addition, schools of social work typically assess your personal statement for the following:

  • Evidence of critical and analytical thinking skills
  • Potential contribution to the field of social work
  • Your ability to communicate clearly and succinctly

This is how you can demonstrate all of the following key areas seamlessly.

Contribution to the field

Let’s look at a personal statement of a past MSW applicant:

Applicant name: Sally ●        Experiences : Sally works at a women’s shelter and talks about what she learned there. ●        Social Justice Issue : Sally decides to talk about an issue within child welfare. ●        Goal : Sally mentions that she wants to get an MSW so that she can qualify for a job at the hospital.

There are a few issues with Sally’s personal statement.

First, there is no cohesion between her experience, social justice issue, and goals, which makes it hard for the reader to understand why she wants to pursue an MSW and how she’ll be an asset to the field.

Second, Sally is talking about how an MSW will be beneficial for her, which comes off as a bit self-serving. When writing a personal statement, it’s important to talk about how pursuing an MSW will allow her to help others.

With this in mind, let’s see an example of how Sally could improve her personal statement:

Applicant: Sally ●        Experiences : Sally works at a women’s shelter and talks about what she learned there. ●        Social Justice Issue : Sally discusses an insight from her time at the women’s shelter, and backs it up with research that proves that her observation is part of a larger social problem.  ●        Goal : This issue that Sally noticed at the women’s shelter inspired her to get her MSW so that she can address that issue and support her clients in a different capacity and advocate for women’s rights at the macro level.

Better, right?

In this version of her personal statement, Sally demonstrates a high level of critical thinking by talking about her insights and backing them up with research, and she demonstrates her potential contribution to the field by discussing how a Master of Social Work will allow her to serve others in a greater capacity. 

If you’re planning to write a personal statement, a great place to start is to think about insights and problems you’ve observed from your work, volunteer, placement, and personal experiences, and use those insights to develop your social justice problem.

Evidence of critical and analytical thinking

In addition to demonstrating your potential to contribute to the field, there are some tangible ways you can demonstrate your critical thinking skills.

First, make sure you understand what social work actually is.

This might sound obvious, but there are a surprising number of applicants who have a pretty limited understanding of what social work entails. I don’t blame them. The media often portrays a specific image of what social workers look like (usually involving child welfare, case workers, or therapists).

However, social work is so much more than that. Social workers work at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of society, and can work in many areas at each of these levels.

Also, many applicants pursue social work out of a desire to help others, but it’s not good enough to say that in your personal statement. There are a lot of other jobs you can do that would allow you to help others. Think about how social workers are different from other helping professions (such as nurses, psychologists, police officers, teachers, lawyers, etc.).  Why do you want to be a social worker and not another helping profession?

Understanding what social work is will help you provide a stronger and more thorough answer to the question of “why” you want to become a social worker.

Finally, connect your insights to the bigger picture by integrating research into your personal statement .

It’s one thing to talk about the issues you’ve noticed from your experiences, and it’s another to connect your insight to the bigger picture with the help of research.

Let’s look at Sally again.

Sally’s role at the women’s shelter is to help her clients who experienced domestic violence find housing. Sally noticed that many of her previously housed clients got evicted and ended up back at the shelter.

Sally also did some research and found studies to suggest that women who experience domestic violence have an overall higher rate of housing instability due to barriers such as income loss and lack of social support.

This knowledge motivated Sally to pursue a Master of Social Work so that she can move into a policy role to advocate for income and social support for women who experience domestic violence.

Connecting experience to research will demonstrate a high level of critical thinking.

Ability to communicate clearly and succinctly

When it comes to writing your personal statement, it’s not only what you say, but also how you say it. Admissions committees are typically assessing your personal statement for your writing ability.

Make it easy to read : Admissions committees read literally hundreds of personal statements each application season, so it’s likely that whoever reads your personal statement is going to quickly skim through your personal statement to find your answers. With that in mind, it’s important to make your personal statement as skimmable and easy to read as possible.

You can do this by adding headings that match each question or prompt so that the reader can easily see that you did answer each prompt.

You should also be concise and get rid of filler words and sentences that don’t directly answer the prompts.

Finally, you should always try to include an introduction and a conclusion in your personal statement where you summarize your experience, social justice problem, and goals. This will allow the reader to get your whole story in a few sentences, and leave them with a strong impression at the beginning and end of your personal statement.

Treat your personal statement like an academic writing sample: Many applicants don’t realize that the personal statement is a sample of your academic writing and research skills. One way to stand out is to treat your personal statement like a school paper. I often advise applicants to use full APA formatting when writing their personal statement, as this will make your personal statement look more professional and will stand out from the crowd. 

Creating Your Own MSW Personal Statement

When writing a personal statement for your MSW, it’s important to demonstrate your potential contribution to the field, critical thinking skills, and strong writing ability. If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to writing an effective personal statement that stands out.

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SocialWorker.com

Graduate School Admissions: Writing an Effective Personal Statement

By: David C. Prichard, Ph.D.

This article focuses on the central role that the personal statement plays in the MSW application process. Strategies are presented for writing an effective statement that will highlight and emphasize applicant strengths congruent with the values of particular Schools of Social Work. The author has chaired the MSW Admissions Committee at the University of New England (UNE) over the past three years, and has assisted in the review of several hundred MSW application packages. During this period, the application procedures were completely revamped, and UNE was subsequently acknowledged in 1995 by the Council on Social Work Education in its Site Visit Report for reaffirmation of accreditation as having developed an admissions process that is "one of the more elaborate, perhaps, in social work education," and for using " . . . as primary sources of decisions, its applicants' personal statements and references." It is from this background that the author offers practical insights and suggestions for writing a personal statement that will increase the likelihood of a good match between student applicant and MSW program.

The Admission Process

Admission policies and procedures among Schools of Social Work vary widely; so too, do the criteria used to evaluate MSW applicants. In general, schools use GRE scores and academic transcripts as quantitative measures to predict academic success. The personal statement, letters of reference, and the application form (including employment and other social work-related experience) are qualitative indicators that may be used to suggest the "fit" between the applicant and the particular school. As the validity of GRE scores comes under increasing criticism (Donahoe & Thyer, 1992), Schools of Social Work, like UNE, are increasingly relying on the personal statement as a qualitative measure of the likelihood of an applicant's "success" with a particular MSW curriculum.

UNE may be representative of a more heavy emphasis on narrative to evaluate MSW applicants. In this approach, two faculty review each student application on the following 6 criteria:

  • work-related (paid and volunteer) and life experiences;
  • meaning attached by applicant to work-related (paid and volunteer) and life experiences;
  • previous academic and professional training;
  • composition and content of personal statement;
  • references, and;
  • experience with and understanding of human dignity, empowerment, social justice, and oppression.

GRE scores are not considered, and the use of undergraduate GPAs is minimized. The faculty reviewers are made familiar in advance with the application materials, particularly regarding where data related to each of the six evaluative criteria may be located within the materials. Reviewers are instructed to consult the student's personal statement for data in all categories but references; the data in all categories are in turn measured against the School's mission statement. Given this approach to evaluating MSW applications, applicants should craft their personal statements carefully, keeping the School's mission statement in mind.

The Personal Statement and the School Mission Statement

The personal statement should reflect careful consideration of the schools to which the applicant has chosen to apply. It gives applicants the opportunity to highlight experiences and reasons for their interest in the field, and allows the school's Admissions Committee to evaluate the compatibility between the values and goals of the applicant and those of the school, while maintaining and assuring diversity within the student body. Without question, well-developed personal statements have contributed to the acceptance of many applicants; poorly written ones to the non-acceptance.

The values and goals of Schools of Social Work vary greatly, and applicants should seek schools whose mission statements fit well with their own values and goals for practice. What are the values and principles that form the foundation of the school? Applicants should reflect upon these carefully. What do they mean? If a school emphasizes the concepts of oppression, social justice, empowerment, dignity, compassion, and respect, what do these mean and how has the life of the applicant been affected in these areas? One of the tasks of the applicant is to tap into her internalized experience of these values to allow the richness of her life to come alive.

The purpose of a well-written personal statement is three-fold. First, it should describe how the applicant's interest in social work developed; second, it needs to consider the applicant's perception of personal strengths and areas in need of development in relation to becoming a professional social worker; and third, it should describe an understanding of the school's mission statement in relation to the applicant's experience and vision of professional social work.

What events in her total life experiences have led the applicant to the field of social work? What is her story, and how did it lead her to apply to this specific school? This is the opportunity to show the link between what may appear on the surface to be disparate life experiences. It is the chance for the applicant to narrate her story and come alive to the faculty reviewer and become a living, thinking, feeling human being with a life full of meaningful experiences.

A Case Example

Using the values of the mission of the UNE School of Social Work, let's examine how an applicant might incorporate the values of the School to carefully craft a summary paragraph in a personal statement. The mission statement of the UNE School of Social Work states, in part, a commitment ". . . to the values of human dignity, individual and cultural diversity, individual and collective self-determination, and social justice . . . to struggle against oppression including all forms of discrimination, social and economic injustice, and violence . . . assessment of social, psychological, economic and organizational oppression, (and) their impact on people's lives, and the strengths people have developed to endure, resist, and change . . . and to promote human relationships grounded in mutuality, compassion, and dignity."

An applicant might present her life and professional experiences using the language and terminology consistent with the values of the stated mission of the School. A paragraph in the personal statement, then, might read as follows:

The values that the School presents in its mission statement are not just words for me. As a lesbian, I have lived the oppression of a society grounded in heterosexist patriarchy, and have experienced firsthand the social and economic injustices suffered by my women and lesbians friends, as well as the working poor. A quiet person by nature, I have discovered a voice that I did not know I had. I have added my voice to those seeking equal rights for same sex partners and continue my struggle to receive health care benefits for my partner of 15 years. I have come to recognize and value the strengths and resiliencies I have developed by necessity to survive the neglect and abuse of my childhood and use these in my ongoing struggle against the discrimination and societal injustices that I experience as a woman and as a lesbian.

Notice how this excerpt from a fictional applicant allows the applicant to come alive to the reader in a passionate, enthusiastic manner while clearly using the language and the values presented in the mission statement of the School. It should be clear that the values of the School and those of the student appear compatible and that there might be a good match here.

In the following fictional excerpt, note the apparent incongruence between the values and goals of the applicant and those of the School, suggesting a poor fit between the School and applicant.

In conclusion, I have always been intrigued by psychological issues, and have actually done quite a lot of reading in the field. I feel that I am an excellent communicator and that I would be able to help clients deal with their problems. My ultimate goal is to become part of a group private practice, and although I am concerned about the current insurance problems and third party reimbursement concerns, I believe that there continues to be a need for MSWs to help people with their psychological and social problems. I believe that the MSW is the most powerful degree to have to provide psychotherapy to clients, and that we will become increasingly recognized by HMOs and managed care companies as the most effective providers. This is the degree that will most aptly enable me, as a psychotherapist in private practice, to help those afflicted with mental illness to become more productive members of society.

Either of these excerpts may be acceptable and, perhaps, even appropriate, depending on the School to which the applicant is applying; however, given the summary of the values of the above School, the first excerpt clearly represents a better fit than the second. In the first we experience a strengths-based perspective and a genuine sense of the struggles and of the "voice" of the applicant-the person behind the words; in the second, we see a more traditional pathology-based perspective and an emphasis on the career ambitions of the applicant.

Recommendations

Four general recommendations are offered to applicants. First, they need to come to a clear understanding of their own values and career goals, and how these are informed by their total life experiences. Second they should come to a clear understanding of the values and goals of the School of Social Work to which they plan to apply. This may be accomplished through faculty, field instructor, and alumni interviews, review of mission statements, review of past core curriculum syllabi, and a library search and review of the literature produced by current faculty. Third, they need to determine which Schools have values that are compatible with their own. Fourth, they need to develop personal statements that reflect the influences in their lives that contributed to an interest in the profession of social work. These statements should reflect a clear understanding of the mission statement of the particular school.

In summary, the purpose of the application process is to give the applicant and the school the chance to screen one another. Applications should be completed only after careful examination of the mission and goals of particular schools, and personal statements need to show a clear understanding of and connection to the values and goals of the school and its curriculum. Perhaps the most useful recommendation for potential applicants is to take the time to reflect on and write out the values and beliefs that guide their lives, inform their behavior, and provide meaning to their life experiences, and to seek out schools that are compatible to these. This done, the personal statement should flow naturally and genuinely, because it will be based on the knowledge, truth, wisdom, and authenticity of personal life experience.

David C. Prichard, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Social Work and Chair of the MSW Admissions Committee at the University of New England.

Copyright © 1996 White Hat Communications. All rights reserved. From THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER , Fall 1996, Vol. 3, No. 2. For reprints of this or other articles from THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER (or for permission to reprint), contact Linda Grobman, publisher/editor, at P.O. Box 5390, Harrisburg, PA 17110-0390, or at [email protected] .

All material published on this website Copyright 1994-2023 White Hat Communications. All rights reserved. Please contact the publisher for permission to reproduce or reprint any materials on this site. Opinions expressed on this site are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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Masters in social work personal statement

If you'd like to become a social worker but didn't study the subject at undergraduate level then a Masters degree is essential for entry into the profession. You'll need to write a personal statement that coveys your commitment and passion to social work

Writing a personal statement for a vocational postgraduate course, like the MSc or Postgraduate Diploma in social work requires a slightly different approach from what you might be used to when applying for academic courses, as you're not only applying for a course, but to train for a particular profession.

You will be expected to:

  • discuss your motivations to train as a social worker
  • reflect on your experiences to demonstrate that you have a realistic insight into the role of a social worker and how they work to support people
  • provide evidence that you have, or are developing relevant skills and qualities for the role
  • show that you have the academic suitability to undertake a postgraduate level course.

For many social work courses it is a requirement to have undertaken relevant work experience in a social work or social care setting. You can see in the example statement, rather than describing the experience and tasks undertaken, you will need to reflect on how your experience has shaped your motivation to train as a social worker and what you have learned about the role. You will also need to provide specific examples of how you have demonstrated the skills, qualities and professional values of a social worker.

This example should be used for guidance only. Copying any of this text could significantly harm your chances of securing a place on a course.

Masters in social work personal statement example

I gained my first insight into social work while studying a 'Social work perspectives' module during the first year of my degree in health and social care. Learning about the ethics that underpin social work practice challenged my assumptions about the role social workers play, demonstrating the importance of the role for empowering vulnerable people and coordinating support to overcome challenges to health, safety and wellbeing.

I was able to observe this in practice during my placement at a supported living service for young people with learning disabilities. Social workers were integral to enabling the young people to safely transition to independent living, advocating for them to secure appropriate accommodation, coordinating access to disability services and providing support to develop independent living skills and money management. Without this advocacy, many of the young people may never have had the opportunity to live independently.

I have recently started a placement working with a local mental health charity, spent a year volunteering with Citizens Advice and am currently volunteering with the Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT). Through these experiences I have observed the challenges faced by different groups of people, many of which can be alleviated or managed through empowerment of individuals and access to the right support. Becoming a social worker would enable me to work with diverse groups and support them to overcome these challenges and live more successfully within our society.

Through my experience, I have responded to individuals with empathy and respect and have demonstrated that I can uphold the values and ethical principles of the social work profession, while resiliently managing the challenges of working under pressure and supporting those who may not always be receptive to me. As a volunteer adviser at Citizens Advice I was often the first point of contact for individuals facing stressful and time-pressured problems, such as eviction or debt. I responded calmly and focused on the issues at hand, taking a non-judgemental approach to the individual's circumstances by clearly explaining why I was asking particular questions and how this would enable me to direct them to the appropriate support. At PACT, I facilitate family play sessions with prisoners and their children. I have taken the time to build rapport with the individual and their families; focusing on the person's identity as a parent and ways I can support them to feel they have a positive societal role. As a social worker it is important to treat people holistically while promoting dignity and wellbeing, these examples show my potential to respond in a positive, impartial way regardless of people's circumstances.

Many of my interactions at the mental health charity are with individuals in challenging circumstances, who are reluctant to seek help from external services due to poor past experiences. Many of my interactions have been with people who are angry, frustrated or suspicious. I take the time to listen to their concerns, provide reassurance and identify an initial starting point. When faced with particularly challenging or complex cases I do not hesitate to seek advice from colleagues or request a referral, always involving the individual in this process. These experiences have enabled me to recognise the importance of multi-disciplinary teams to meet complex and multi-faceted needs. These interactions have better prepared me to work with people who may present in a challenging way due to their circumstances and have helped me to develop the resilience to manage those interactions professionally and calmly.

My degree has prepared me for both the academic study and practice elements of the MSc in Social work. The interdisciplinary nature of my degree has introduced me to approaches from sociology, philosophy, health, policy and psychology, which provide a strong foundation to build upon in the social work course. In safeguarding modules I was introduced to the legal and policy frameworks underpinning practice when analysing a number of recent serious case reviews. This developed my ability to analyse complex situations where the application of law and policy is not always straightforward. Undertaking practice placements will enable me to further develop and apply this knowledge to real scenarios, building my confidence in making effective, evidence-informed decisions.

My dissertation project evaluated the impact of a local mental health charity's peer support programme, enabling me to develop a strong understanding of the ethics of participant research. I developed the methodology, completed the literature review and carried out primary research. This has prepared me with the core academic skills to evaluate research and develop evidence informed approaches during the Masters course.

Undertaking placements and volunteering alongside my degree has seen me organise my time effectively, consistently meeting coursework deadlines and completing work to a standard that has put me on track to achieve a 2:1, while receiving positive feedback from placements on my reliability. This demonstrates my ability to successfully balance academic work alongside the demands of practice placements during the Masters.

My work experience has motivated me to pursue a social work career in mental health, advocating for those who may not be in a position to advocate for themselves. The course will equip me with tools and approaches for working with service users in a range of circumstances, from those in crisis to those who need practical support to manage their condition in the community. I particularly look forward to professional placements where I can apply my learning while supported by experienced practitioners to navigate this complex area of social work. The MSc in Social work will build upon the knowledge and skills gained through my degree and experience, equipping me to undertake this challenging and demanding role.

Find out more

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  • Read up on the BASWs Code of Ethics for Social Workers .

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The College Application

10 MSW Personal Statement Examples (with Commentary)

Get inspired by some of the best MSW personal statement examples below.

These personal statement examples are inspired by actual essays from students with whom we’ve collaborated, essays that contributed to their successful admissions. For confidentiality, key details have been altered.

If you’re looking for Personal Statement Help, Get Started Here !

Table of Contents

Example 1: NYU MSW Personal Statement Sample

Prompt: ‘why i want to be a social worker’ essay.

At the tender age of five, as my family faced the challenges of immigrating to the United States, I quickly became attuned to the complexities surrounding us. This early brush with adversity sparked my quest for understanding, especially in the realm of adolescent experiences. Growing up in a household where my mother tirelessly cared for us, while my father remained emotionally distant, I learned to seek solace in introspection and daydreaming. These experiences laid the foundation for my deep empathy towards others and a commitment to understanding them beyond surface-level perceptions.

My ability to empathize with others, particularly adolescents, has been a guiding force in my life. Working with XXXX as a counselor, I revisited my own teenage years, recognizing the crucial need for guidance during this transformative phase. This realization has fueled my determination to specialize in counseling and therapy for adolescents, a path I am eager to pursue through NYU’s Master of Social Work program. I am convinced that effective counseling during adolescence is pivotal in shaping capable, responsible adults.

My internship at XXXX Health was a turning point. Observing clinical behavioral health therapists and working alongside a psychiatrist specializing in post-incarceration life, I gained profound insights into the long-lasting impact of disrupted adolescent experiences. Hearing the narratives of former inmates underscored the importance of early intervention in defining one’s identity. This experience intensified my desire to work with young individuals struggling to find their place in the world.

Choosing NYU Silver was a natural decision. The school’s esteemed faculty, particularly Dr. Kirk Jae James, resonates with my journey as an immigrant. Dr. James’ dedication to overcoming his challenging past and disproving stereotypes is not just inspiring; it mirrors the resilience and determination I strive to embody. His work with those affected by mass incarceration aligns closely with my aspiration to be a clinical therapist who can bring change to young lives.

New York City, the vibrant and diverse backdrop of NYU Silver, also greatly appeals to me. The city’s rich history of nurturing notable figures like Andy Warhol, Roy Halston, and Jean Basquiat speaks to its capacity to foster self-discovery and belonging. I am excited to immerse myself in this melting pot of cultures and ideas, which will undoubtedly enrich my learning and practice in clinical therapy.

My personal history, particularly my father’s struggle with his traumatic childhood, has taught me that resilience and determination are key to overcoming adversity. His journey, though fraught with challenges, has instilled in me the belief that embracing the unknown and being steadfast in one’s goals can lead to remarkable achievements. Carrying this lesson with me, I step into NYU Silver poised to embark on a journey towards becoming an influential clinical therapist for adolescents.

My path to NYU Silver is more than an academic pursuit; it is a commitment to my dream of guiding adolescents through their most vulnerable years. By combining my personal experiences with the comprehensive training at NYU Silver, I am ready to make a meaningful impact in the field of clinical therapy, helping young individuals navigate their formative years with understanding and resilience.

Commentary:

  • Personal and Cultural Background : Effectively connects early experiences as an immigrant to developing empathy, crucial for social work.
  • Professional Aspirations : Clearly links past experiences with seniors and an internship to a focused interest in clinical therapy for adolescents.
  • Academic Motivation : Draws a parallel between personal experiences and the inspiration found in NYU Silver’s faculty and New York City’s diversity.
  • Resilience and Determination : Reflects on lessons learned from family, particularly the father, instilling a belief in achieving ambitious goals.
  • Career Vision : Articulates a strong desire to impact adolescent lives, demonstrating an understanding of the field’s challenges and opportunities.

Verdict: The personal statement is heartfelt and well-structured, showing a clear link between the candidate’s background, their professional drive, and their chosen academic path. The reflection on personal and family resilience adds depth, positioning the candidate as a motivated individual ready to leverage their experiences for meaningful social work.

Example 2: Columbia MSW Personal Statement Sample

  • Part 1: Reflecting upon your decision and motivation to pursue the MSW, describe how attending CSSW will enable you to meet your goals as a social worker. What are your immediate and long-term social work goals?
  • Part 2: Describe a social problem of significance to you. Please discuss it in regard to societal contributions to the origin of the problem, experiences that have contributed to your identification and understanding of the problem, and possible ways of addressing the problem.
  • Part 3: Choose two attributes and provide examples as to how you exemplify these traits. Choose one attribute you would like to improve. How will attending the MSW program at CSSW help you in doing so?

1. Motivation and Goals for Pursuing MSW:

From a young age, I have been acutely aware of the disparities and injustices in my community. Growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Chicago, I witnessed firsthand the detrimental effects of poverty, limited access to quality education, and the cycle of violence. These early observations fueled my passion for social work, specifically my desire to develop community-based programs aimed at youth empowerment and education. My immediate goal is to work in a non-profit organization focused on urban youth development, while my long-term ambition is to establish a foundation dedicated to providing educational resources and mentorship programs for at-risk youth.

Attending the Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW) will provide me with the critical skills, knowledge, and network necessary to achieve these goals. CSSW’s commitment to social justice, its comprehensive curriculum, and the opportunity to learn from esteemed faculty and diverse peers will equip me with a nuanced understanding of social issues and effective intervention strategies.

2. A Significant Social Problem:

The social problem that resonates most with me is the school-to-prison pipeline, an issue rampant in many urban communities, including my own. This problem arises from a combination of societal factors such as underfunded public schools, zero-tolerance policies, and systemic racial discrimination. My understanding of this issue deepened through volunteering at a local youth center, where I encountered numerous teens who had been expelled from school and were at risk of entering the juvenile justice system.

Addressing this problem requires a multi-faceted approach, starting with policy reform to prioritize education and rehabilitation over punishment. Community-based intervention programs focusing on mentorship, counseling, and educational support can play a vital role in diverting at-risk youth from the criminal justice system. At CSSW, I hope to explore these interventions in-depth and develop effective strategies to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

3. Personal Attributes and Areas for Improvement:

Empathy : My empathy has been a guiding force in my social work journey. A poignant example was when I volunteered at a local youth center. There, I met a teenager named Marcus who had been expelled from school. By actively listening and engaging with him, I learned about his challenges at home and his struggles with learning disabilities. Understanding his situation, I worked with the youth center staff to develop a personalized educational plan and connect him with a mentor. This experience deepened my ability to empathize with individuals from diverse backgrounds, recognizing the unique challenges they face.

Resilience : My resilience was particularly tested when I spearheaded a community project to revitalize a rundown public park. The project faced numerous setbacks, including funding shortages and bureaucratic hurdles. Despite these challenges, I mobilized the community, organized fundraising events, and negotiated with local officials. The successful completion of the park not only provided a safe space for children but also reinforced my ability to persist in the face of adversity, a crucial trait for a social worker.

Area for Improvement – Policy Advocacy : My experience in grassroots initiatives has been rewarding, but it also highlighted the limitations of addressing social issues without policy change. For instance, while volunteering at the youth center, I realized that individual interventions, though beneficial, could not alone prevent the systemic issue of school expulsions leading to juvenile detentions. This recognition has fueled my desire to improve my skills in policy advocacy, an area where I see great growth potential. CSSW’s program, with its emphasis on policy practice, will be instrumental in helping me acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to advocate effectively for systemic changes.

Conclusion:

Attending Columbia School of Social Work will be a pivotal step in my journey to becoming an impactful social worker. I am eager to engage with the CSSW community, learn from diverse experiences, and contribute my perspective towards creating meaningful change. I am committed to using the knowledge and skills gained from CSSW to fight for social justice and empower the youth in communities like mine.

  • Clarity of Motivation : The essay effectively communicates the candidate’s personal experiences and observations of disparities in their community as key motivators for pursuing social work.
  • Goal-Oriented : Clearly outlines immediate and long-term goals, demonstrating a focused vision for a career in social work.
  • Understanding of a Social Issue : The candidate’s insight into the school-to-prison pipeline, informed by volunteer experiences, indicates a deep understanding of this complex social problem.
  • Attributes and Self-Improvement : Demonstrates empathy and resilience through specific examples. Identifies policy advocacy as an area for improvement and connects this to CSSW’s curriculum.
  • Personal and Professional Growth : The candidate’s experiences, challenges faced, and the growth they seek align well with the offerings of the CSSW program.

Verdict: The candidate’s personal statement is compelling and well-crafted. It showcases a strong personal connection to the field, a clear understanding of relevant social issues, and a desire for professional growth that aligns with the CSSW program.

Example 3: UC Berkeley MSW Statement of Purpose Sample

Please address each of the following in your statement:

  • Describe your aptitude, motivation and preparation for graduate study in the field of social welfare; your future career goals in the profession of social work; and achievements that demonstrate your professional promise and leadership potential as a social worker.
  • Describe your academic and professional areas of interest in social work, including your chosen area(s) of specialization.
  • Demonstrate your understanding of contemporary issues and challenges in the professional practice of social work by posing a question or identifying a relevant problem/current issue you would like to explore, and how you might address it from the perspective of a masters’-level social worker.

My journey into the world of social work began with a deeply personal experience – caring for my youngest daughter who faced developmental and language delays. This challenge opened my eyes to the struggles of parents with special needs children and sparked my commitment to helping vulnerable groups. I founded a non-profit organization to support children in rural Russian orphanages, which expanded my drive to assist not only children but also adults suffering from trauma and PTSD. This path has led me to pursue the Master of Social Welfare program at Berkeley, where I aim to deepen my knowledge and skills for effective global impact.

My background is richly diverse. As a mother of four bilingual, multicultural children, I developed a keen interest in early bilingualism. For my thesis at XXXX State Linguistic University, I explored bilingual language development in infants and toddlers, focusing on methods used by parents raising bilingual children. This research, recommended for publication as a guide for multilingual families, heightened my awareness of the challenges immigrant families face globally. It solidified my resolve to find research-based solutions to social issues, a commitment I bring to Berkeley’s rigorous program.

Professionally, I thrived as a XXXX Director for XXXX in Russia, where I honed leadership skills by building a team of passionate educators. A notable achievement was our collaboration with XXXX Department, providing educational programs to young patients. This experience was transformative, broadening my perspective on social change and reinforcing my desire to make a meaningful difference.

As a certified life and leadership coach, I focused on assisting Russian-speaking immigrants and refugee women, many confronting dire challenges like domestic abuse and PTSD. These encounters underscored the need for specialized social welfare skills, steering me towards a Master’s in Social Work. My goal is to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, specializing in trauma and PTSD, and to contribute on an international scale, possibly with organizations like Doctors Without Borders.

Recognizing the critical role of language in social work, I have been learning Spanish and French to better connect with diverse patient populations. My linguistic background enhances my ability to engage effectively in multicultural settings. To gain practical experience, I completed a 90-hour training at Crisis Support Services of XXXX and began volunteering on their crisis line. This hands-on involvement, particularly during these challenging times, has further motivated me toward my LCSW goal.

UC Berkeley’s MSW program, known for its diverse student body and commitment to public service, is the ideal environment for me to grow. Surrounded by peers and faculty who share a dedication to social justice, I am eager to expand my understanding and prepare for a career dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable individuals, families, and communities.

  • Personal Experience as Motivation : The statement effectively uses the candidate’s personal experience of caring for a child with developmental delays as a catalyst for their interest in social work.
  • Global Perspective : Showcases a strong commitment to international social issues through work with Russian orphanages and immigrant communities.
  • Professional Achievements : Highlights relevant professional experiences, including leadership roles and work with vulnerable populations.
  • Educational Goals and Alignment : Clearly articulates the desire to specialize in trauma and PTSD, aligning with Berkeley’s MSW program’s strengths.
  • Multicultural and Linguistic Skills : Demonstrates an understanding of the importance of cultural competence in social work, supported by multilingual abilities.

Verdict: The candidate presents a compelling mix of personal motivation, professional experience, and academic alignment with the MSW program at UC Berkeley. Their diverse background and specific career goals make them an ideal candidate for the program.

Example 4: Cal State Fullerton MSW Personal Statement Sample

The quality of the writing in the personal statement will be evaluated, as will the applicant’s ability to thoroughly address the questions outlined below:

  • Describe how your personal background and life experiences have influenced your decision to pursue a graduate education in social work. Please include any challenges or hardships you may have overcome on your journey.
  • What are your expectations of graduate education at Cal State Fullerton in terms of your own development? Indicate any problems or limitations that should be taken into account in planning your graduate program.
  • Specify your career objectives as a professional social worker as you now conceive them. Indicate the fields of practice in which you are interested.
  • Describe your experiences with diverse populations and groups, and how those experiences have contributed to your interest in social work. Which population (defined by culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, psychological and/or physical functioning) would you like to serve and why?

While managing an in-school feeding program, I watched a 7-year-old boy take a modest meal at school, and save half for his siblings at home. Another girl expressed joy for the school meals she relied on. These encounters, and others like them, deeply impacted me, highlighting the critical issue of child hunger and food insecurity. My resolve to expand our school feeding program was fueled by these experiences, successfully growing it from 7 to 1,053 schools over five years.

After graduating, I joined the Philippine XXXXX in 2001, managing the Business and Peace Program in the XXXXX Region. Here, I worked with XXXXXX, identifying young Muslims for internships that fostered leadership and peace.

In 2008, I transitioned to the XXXXX Foundation, developing community programs and managing the in-school feeding program, which fed 40,000 children at its peak. These experiences solidified my commitment to child welfare and my belief in the power of social work.

Managing the feeding program, I faced ethical challenges, like discovering fund misappropriation by a local agency officer. I addressed this by establishing direct communication with schools and conducting random checks, ensuring program integrity.

Then in 2013, I took a break to focus on family and moved to XXXXX. Motherhood enriched my perspective, making me more empathetic, resilient, and dedicated to child welfare. Now ready to re-enter the social work field, I seek an MSW degree to update my skills and knowledge.

Post-MSW, I aim to influence policies and contribute to community-based solutions in the Philippines, aspiring to work with large non-profits and eventually with international agencies like UNICEF.

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened child poverty in the Philippines, underscoring the urgency of my mission. At CSU Fullerton, I plan to study social work theories, understand child welfare systems, and apply these learnings to the Philippine context.

With a Master of Social Work degree, I am poised to join the effort to advance children’s welfare, equipped to make a significant difference in their lives. The Filipino children cannot wait. They need all the help they can get. And with a Master of Social Work degree from CSU Fullerton, the battle will have been half-won.

  • Personal Narrative as Motivation : The statement effectively uses the applicant’s personal experiences with poverty, domestic violence, and addiction to illustrate a deep-rooted motivation for pursuing social work.
  • Community Involvement and Professional Experience : Highlights significant community engagement and professional achievements, demonstrating a commitment to social justice and positive change.
  • Challenges and Ethical Considerations : Discusses challenges faced during professional work, showing problem-solving skills and ethical awareness.
  • Academic and Career Goals : Clearly articulates how an MSW will enrich the applicant’s knowledge and skills, aiming to influence policies and create community-based solutions.
  • Personal Growth and Family Perspective : Reflects on the lessons learned from being a stay-at-home mother, tying this to a renewed enthusiasm for child welfare work.

Verdict: The statement presents a well-rounded candidate with a compelling personal connection to social work, reinforced by active community involvement, ethical professional practice, and clear career goals. The applicant’s experiences and aspirations align well with the MSW program at CSU Fullerton- making them a strong candidate.

Example 5: Cal State Long Beach MSW Personal Statement Sample

How did you become interested in social work? What motivated you to choose social work as a profession?

My passion for social work and advocacy for equality is rooted in a fundamental belief: no voice should be silenced in the pursuit of a just society. Throughout my life, I’ve witnessed how advocates for equality are often marginalized, their concerns unheard. This fuels my commitment to actively work towards a just world, where standing up for justice is a right for all.

As a child of Mexican immigrants, I experienced the harsh realities of a low-income household. This upbringing ingrained in me deep empathy and an intimate understanding of the struggles faced by underprivileged communities. My parents’ relentless hard work and sacrifices, despite economic hardships, have been a constant source of inspiration. They taught me resilience, compassion, and the importance of community support.

My professional journey in social work began at XXXX Community Development Corporation, where I took a lead role in organizing a landmark meeting with elected officials. We successfully voiced community concerns, addressing critical issues like infrastructure and public safety. This experience honed my skills in advocacy and highlighted the power of active listening and engagement.

Furthering my commitment, I volunteered at XXXX Volunteers in Medicine, assisting in providing healthcare to those unable to afford it. Here, I learned the critical role of accessible healthcare and the importance of educating communities about healthy living. These experiences have solidified my resolve to pursue a career in social work, focusing on advocating for essential services and support for underprivileged communities.

My aspiration to become a licensed clinical social worker, specializing in children’s mental health, aligns perfectly with the academic rigor and diverse environment offered by the Master of Social Work program at CSULB. As an undergraduate at CSULB, I was captivated by the program’s depth and the diverse perspectives it embraced. The experiences shared with students from varied backgrounds deepened my understanding of the multifaceted challenges in our society.

I am fully committed to investing my time and resources in the coursework and fieldwork placements at CSULB. The opportunity to study in a stimulating environment, surrounded by professionals who share my passion, will provide a solid foundation for my career. I bring with me a wealth of practical insights from working with low-income communities, the homeless, the elderly, and drug users. These experiences, I believe, will contribute significantly to our class discussions and align perfectly with CSULB’s mission of supporting vulnerable and oppressed populations.

My journey in social work is a commitment to those who struggle to be heard. At CSULB, I aim to further my skills, knowledge, and understanding, preparing myself to be a force for change and a voice for the voiceless. My goal is to ensure that every child, family, and community I work with gets the opportunity to thrive, just as I strive to make a meaningful impact in the field of social work.

  • Strong Personal Connection : The statement effectively connects the candidate’s personal background as a child of Mexican immigrants to her empathy and understanding of underprivileged communities.
  • Professional Experience : Highlights relevant work in community development and healthcare, which demonstrates practical skills in advocacy and community engagement.
  • Academic and Career Goals : Clearly articulates the ambition to specialize in children’s mental health, aligning with CSULB’s program.
  • Commitment to Social Work Values : Demonstrates a deep commitment to social justice, aligned with the mission of CSULB’s social work program.

Verdict: The personal statement is comprehensive and well-constructed, effectively demonstrating the candidate’s passion, relevant experience, and alignment with CSULB’s Master of Social Work program. The candidate’s background and professional aspirations make them a strong fit for the program.

Example 6: San Jose State University MSW Personal Statement Sample

In the heart of a small migrant community, where the sting of social inequities was a daily reality, my path toward a career in social work began to take shape. My childhood, marked by the challenges of racial discrimination and economic struggle, instilled in me not only resilience but a deep understanding of the complex social fabric that shapes communities. It was these formative experiences, coupled with my time volunteering at a local shelter, that solidified my dedication to advocating for social justice.

Professionally, my experiences have been closely aligned with the values at the core of social work. Serving as a community organizer, I worked alongside local leaders to tackle critical issues like housing affordability and healthcare accessibility, gaining valuable insights into the world of policy advocacy. Another pivotal role was as a counselor for at-risk youth, where I developed a keen understanding of the challenges faced by young people from diverse backgrounds. This role was instrumental in refining my skills in empathy and communication.

Looking ahead, my immediate goal is to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a focus on trauma and PTSD. In the long run, I aspire to establish a non-profit dedicated to providing mental health services to marginalized communities. These ambitions are rooted in a deep-seated commitment to effecting lasting change for those society often overlooks.

San Jose State University’s MSW program, renowned for its emphasis on culturally competent practice, particularly with Latinx and other minority groups, aligns perfectly with both my personal and professional values. The program’s exceptional faculty and comprehensive curriculum stand out as ideal for nurturing my academic and professional growth.

In conclusion, I am confident that my time at San Jose State University will not only refine my existing skills but also expand my perspectives, equipping me to become an effective, empathetic social worker. I am eager to embrace the tools and knowledge that the program offers, to champion social justice and make a tangible difference in the lives of those most in need.

This MSW personal statement sample effectively showcases the candidate’s journey and motivation towards a career in social work. It does well in several key aspects:

  • Personal Experience : The statement begins with a compelling narrative about the candidate’s upbringing in a diverse, challenging environment, effectively linking personal background to their interest in social work.
  • Professional Alignment : The candidate skillfully ties their professional experiences, like community organizing and counseling, to the core values of social work- to demonstrate a clear understanding and commitment to the field.
  • Future Goals & Alignment with the Program : The statement outlines specific short-term and long-term professional goals, aligning them with the strengths of San Jose State University’s MSW program. This demonstrates the candidate’s purposeful choice of program and their understanding of how it will support their career objectives.
  • Flow and Clarity : The essay is well-structured, with each paragraph transitioning smoothly into the next, maintaining a clear and engaging narrative throughout.

Verdict: The statement presents a well-rounded, sincere, and focused candidate with a clear vision for their future in social work. It makes a strong case for their admission.

Example 7: Wayne State University MSW Personal Statement Sample

Your statement must address the following items:

  • The National Association of Social Workers set forth important guiding principles to address social workers’ ethical responsibility to clients, colleagues, employers and employing organizations, the social work profession, and society.
  • Describe how these ethical standards would shape your professional social work practice. How would you reconcile any conflicts between your personal values and the requirements of the profession?
  • Describe why you believe you are a good fit with the mission of the Wayne State University School of Social Work, particularly its urban mission.
  • Social workers are committed to social justice. Please describe your thoughts on a particular social and economic justice issue and how you intend to use your professional social work degree to address these issues.

As an African American with Native American roots, I have firsthand experience with the challenges faced by underserved communities. This background has deeply influenced my desire to pursue social work, driven by a belief in compassion, commitment, and competence. I aim to amplify my impact in this field by enhancing my skills, and I believe the MSW program at Wayne State University is the ideal setting for this growth.

My life in Detroit has exposed me to the myriad challenges of urban environments, from food deserts to unsafe public spaces and high crime rates. The city’s struggle with deindustrialization has led to job losses, property abandonment, and heightened poverty, which I believe positions me uniquely for Wayne’s urban mission. Understanding these issues firsthand, I feel equipped to contribute meaningfully to solutions.

In my current role with a youth assistance program, I work to prevent youths from entering the juvenile system and help rehabilitate those already involved. Our sessions include group counseling, academic enrichment, and life skills training, aimed at early intervention to improve life quality and academic performance.

My practice as a social worker is grounded in the ethical standards set forth by the National Association of Social Workers. I prioritize service above self-interest, as evidenced by my role as a Direct Care Worker for my sister with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I am committed to social justice and understand the importance of dignity and respect for every individual, regardless of their background. My experience with Wayne State University’s XXXXXX program has further reinforced the value of human relationships in social work.

I recognize the potential conflicts between personal values and professional responsibilities. In such cases, I intend to adhere to the profession’s ethical standards, ensuring that my personal beliefs do not hinder my ability to serve clients effectively.

The Wayne State University School of Social Work’s urban mission resonates with my experiences and aspirations. My understanding of Detroit’s unique challenges aligns with the school’s focus on urban social work. I am particularly interested in addressing issues of poverty and economic disparity, leveraging my post-masters degree to initiate impactful programs like fundraisers for low-income students and collaborations with local food banks.

I am aware of the challenges in understanding certain aspects of social work, such as the dynamics of gang involvement. To address this, I plan to engage in continuous learning about various community issues to enhance my ability to serve diverse populations effectively.

My journey has not been without its challenges. While I have been actively involved in addressing the needs of victims of gang violence, I recognize a gap in my understanding of gang culture. To bridge this gap, I am committed to learning more about gang dynamics, history, and the socioeconomic factors that influence gang membership. This knowledge will be crucial in my work with at-risk youth, allowing me to provide more targeted and effective interventions.

Balancing the demands of graduate studies with work, family, and financial responsibilities will be challenging, but my experience in the Wayne State University XXXXX program has equipped me with valuable skills in time management and prioritization. I am prepared to fully commit to the MSW program, confident that it will transform me into an impactful social work professional aligned with Wayne State’s mission.

  • Alignment with University’s Mission : The statement effectively aligns the student’s personal and professional experiences with Wayne State University’s urban mission.
  • Ethical Awareness : Demonstrates a clear understanding of social work ethics and a commitment to upholding these standards in practice.
  • Conflict Resolution : Thoughtfully addresses potential conflicts between personal values and professional responsibilities, indicating maturity and professional readiness.
  • Commitment to Social Justice : Shows a strong dedication to social justice, particularly in addressing economic disparities and poverty.
  • Continuous Learning : Emphasizes a willingness to learn and grow, especially in areas like understanding gang dynamics, which is crucial for effective social work.
  • Personal Experiences : Successfully uses personal experiences to illustrate a deep understanding of the challenges faced by underserved communities.
  • Realistic Approach : Acknowledges and prepares for the challenges of balancing graduate studies with other life responsibilities.

Verdict: The applicant shows a strong alignment with the program’s focus, demonstrates ethical awareness, and possesses a clear commitment to social justice and continuous learning. The statement shows maturity and readiness for the challenges of graduate study in social work.

Example 8: University of Pittsburg MSW Personal Statement Sample

Please describe in your personal statement the following:

  • Influences in your life that led you to select social work as a profession
  • Why you are applying to the University of Pittsburg School of Social Work
  • How an MSW will help you achieve your career goals
  • Your special skills and abilities, your strengths as well as your limitations
  • How your abilities will contribute to your development as a professional social worker
  • Discuss a contemporary issue that is of concern to you

Printed on my grandfather’s funeral brochure was an old Irish proverb: “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal.” This sentiment has resonated with me deeply, as I have experienced significant loss in my life, from cancer to accidents and suicide. These experiences have not only shaped my understanding of grief but also steered me towards a career in social work, specifically in gerontology and hospice care.

During my final quarter at XXXXXXX State College, I met a hospice social worker whose impact on families dealing with end-of-life situations was profound. Her approach to helping families accept, celebrate life, and find peace in farewells deeply inspired me. It was then that I realized the power of social work in providing comfort and dignity in life’s final stages.

I am applying to the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work because of its strong gerontology program and its commitment to addressing contemporary issues like the impact of COVID-19 on the aging population. The pandemic has starkly highlighted the disparities in our healthcare system, especially concerning end-of-life care. I aim to contribute to this field by developing solutions to these emerging challenges, ensuring dignity and comfort for all in their final moments, regardless of their racial or socioeconomic status.

My work experience in childcare and hospitality has equipped me with patience, empathy, and a strong work ethic, qualities essential for a career in social work. Additionally, my volunteer work with XXXXXXX and the XXXXXXX has given me valuable experience in community service. However, I recognize my tendency to be overly trusting as a limitation. In the field of social work, discernment is crucial, and I am actively working on balancing empathy with professional objectivity.

At the University of Pittsburgh, I am particularly interested in courses like Grief and Loss: Interventions, Implications, and Understanding, and Direct Practice with Older Adults. These courses, coupled with field education in aging, hospice, or hospital settings, will be instrumental in achieving my career goals.

My commitment to serving the Pittsburgh community stems from my deep-rooted connection to the city. Witnessing the impact of the university’s alumni in the field has further motivated me to pursue my MSW here. I am fully aware of the challenges that lie ahead in the field of social work, but I am confident that the guidance and training offered by the University of Pittsburgh will equip me to tackle these challenges effectively.

My personal experiences with loss, combined with my professional aspirations and commitment to social justice, make me a suitable candidate for the MSW program. I am eager to contribute my skills, work ethic, and unique perspectives to the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and to grow into a compassionate and effective social worker.

  • Connection of Personal Experience to Career Choice : Effectively links personal encounters with loss to a passion for social work, particularly in gerontology and hospice care.
  • Alignment with Program’s Strengths : Clearly identifies why the University of Pittsburgh’s program, with its focus on gerontology, is a strong fit for the candidate’s career goals.
  • Discussion of Contemporary Issues : Addresses the impact of COVID-19 on the aging population, showing awareness of current challenges in social work.
  • Self-awareness and Growth : Acknowledges personal limitations, like being overly trusting, and the intention to work on balancing empathy with professional objectivity.
  • Relevant Skills and Experience : Highlights experiences in childcare, hospitality, and volunteer work, which showcase skills valuable in social work.

Verdict: The statement demonstrates a clear connection between personal experiences and professional aspirations. It aligns effectively with the program’s focus, displays awareness of current social issues, and shows a commitment to personal growth- making the candidate a strong fit for the University of Pittsburgh’s MSW program.

Example 9: Case Western Reserve University MSW Personal Statement Sample

Discuss significant factors influencing your decision to pursue a Master of Science in Social Administration (MSSA).

  • Your essay should include information regarding your interest in the social work profession, your intended concentration/specialization, and career goals.
  • Please reflect on how any past school, community, volunteer, professional work, and leadership experiences will contribute to your success as a graduate student.
  • Describe how you see yourself contributing to the vibrancy of our student body and school community.
  • Describe any strengths or limitations that might influence you being successful in your field placement.
  • Finally, please include why the Mandel School is a good fit for your educational goals.

My decision to pursue a Master of Science in Social Administration (MSSA) at the Mandel School is deeply rooted in personal and professional experiences that have highlighted the profound impact of social work. My journey began with observing the complexities of mental health within my family, which instilled in me a passion for understanding and advocating for mental health care.

Growing up, I watched a beloved family member struggle with mental health challenges. Witnessing their battle and the ripple effect it had on our family stirred in me a resolve to support others facing similar trials. This resolve only deepened with the birth of my daughter, Eve, when I encountered my postpartum mood disorders. Through receiving treatment and support, I was empowered to overcome these challenges, which further fueled my aspiration to assist women grappling with similar issues.

In my professional role as a Health Coach and Personal Trainer, I’ve had the privilege of supporting clients like John and Anna, whose mental well-being was intertwined with their physical health goals. These experiences have honed my ability to listen empathetically and devise holistic approaches to wellness that I believe will be invaluable in my social work practice.

My immediate career goal is to establish a private practice focused on women’s mental health, particularly addressing postpartum mood disorders. I am inspired to create a space where women can seek help without stigma or silence. In the long term, I aspire to influence mental health policy, advocating for accessible care and support systems that recognize and address the silent struggles many women face.

The Mandel School’s commitment to academic excellence and its vibrant student body resonate with my educational and professional ethos. The school’s innovative approach to social work education, particularly in mental health, makes it an exceptional fit for my aspirations. My compassion, coupled with my professional experience and personal journey through mental health challenges, will contribute to the rich tapestry of the Mandel School community.

Ultimately, I envision my time at the Mandel School as a transformative experience that will not only deepen my understanding of social work but also equip me with the skills to make significant contributions to the field. With a community that fosters diversity of thought and experience, I am confident that my educational journey here will prepare me for a fulfilling and impactful career in social work.

  • Personal Connection : The statement effectively establishes a personal connection to social work through the candidate’s family experiences with mental health.
  • Professional Relevance : It highlights relevant work experience that translates well into social work competencies, particularly in understanding clients’ holistic needs.
  • Clear Career Objectives : The candidate articulates well-defined short-term and long-term goals that align with their personal experiences and professional aspirations.
  • School Alignment : There is a strong emphasis on how the Mandel School’s ethos resonates with the candidate’s goals, suggesting a thoughtful choice in their application.
  • Contribution to Community : The statement outlines how the candidate’s unique experiences and compassion will add value to the student body and fieldwork.

Verdict: The candidate’s personal statement is compelling, demonstrating a strong, authentic motivation for pursuing an MSSA and a clear vision for how the Mandel School will help fulfill their career objectives.

Example 10: University of Pittsburg MSW Personal Statement Sample

  • Influences in your life that led you to select social work as a profession.
  • Why you are applying to Pitt’s School of Social Work.
  • How an MSW will help you achieve your career goals.
  • How your abilities will contribute to your development as a professional social worker.
  • discuss a contemporary issue that is of concern to you.

At just seven years old, I witnessed the harsh realities of poverty, domestic violence, and addiction within my family. These experiences instilled in me a passion for social work, especially after seeing how social workers supported our family through my parents’ mental health and addiction challenges. This inspired me to pursue a career in this field to use my background and skills gained from an MSW program to assist individuals and families in their recovery processes.

Growing up, our family was caught up in a custody battle, leading my siblings and me to frequently navigate foster care and courtrooms. My parents’ struggle with addiction was alleviated by the support of social workers and case managers, who provided housing, food assistance, service coordination, and counseling. Tragically, both my parents eventually succumbed to drug overdoses. Though painful, these experiences further reinforced my commitment to social work and helping others facing similar struggles.

In recent years, I have been actively involved in social justice activism. My roles as a community organizer and development director for XXXXX Summer Camp, a non-profit empowering girls and non-binary youth through music and mentorship, highlighted the need for improved mental and behavioral health services. Volunteering as a delivery driver and food packager with XXXXX Aid during the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of community support for those in need.

My experience in event coordination, donor relationship building, and electoral campaign work has enabled me to contribute to meaningful change in my community, such as the successful XXXXX Wage initiative in Oregon, which improved the lives of countless workers. Serving on the XXXXX Democratic Committee for Ward Four, I have amplified community voices and supported candidates who advocate for accessible mental and behavioral health services, safe and affordable housing, and environmental protection.

A contemporary issue that concerns me is the effectiveness of harm reduction techniques in treating mental health and dual-diagnosis clients. I aim to explore how these techniques can be integrated into traditional substance abuse treatment models to better meet the mental health needs of individuals like my parents. Additionally, I am interested in how mental health professionals and addiction treatment providers can collaborate to provide comprehensive care for dual-diagnosis clients.

Obtaining an MSW will empower me to become a skilled, compassionate, and trauma-informed clinician. My goal is to contribute to accessible mental and behavioral health services, particularly for trauma survivors, and advocate for inclusive, culturally responsive, and restorative justice practices.

I am empathetic and easily connect with people, and my resilience in adversity will contribute to my development as a professional social worker. These qualities have supported me in helping my sister Cheyan and in my social justice work.

I chose the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work for its highly-ranked program and specialization in mental health. This program aligns with my goal of employing harm reduction strategies for dual-diagnosis clients. Additionally, its proximity to my family will enable me to support them while pursuing my education.

I am eager to return to the University of Pittsburgh and embark on this transformative journey to become a professional social worker. The MSW program will enable me to make a significant difference in the lives of those who need compassionate and trauma-informed care. I am confident that this program will honor my family’s legacy and empower me to create positive change for countless individuals and families in need.

  • Personal Experience as a Motivation : The applicant compellingly uses their personal history of overcoming poverty, domestic violence, and addiction to demonstrate a deep-rooted motivation for pursuing social work.
  • Community Involvement : The statement highlights significant community engagement and activism, showcasing a commitment to social justice and change.
  • Professional Development : Details about event coordination, campaign involvement, and leadership roles show the applicant’s ability to effect change and work collaboratively.
  • Academic and Career Goals : The applicant clearly articulates their interest in harm reduction techniques and their intent to enhance their skills through the MSW program.
  • Personal Qualities : Empathy and resilience are emphasized as strengths that will aid in their development as a social worker.

Verdict: The statement presents a well-rounded candidate with a powerful personal connection to social work, backed by active community involvement and clear professional goals. Their commitment to addressing complex social issues, coupled with their personal strengths, shines throughout the statement.

Before you go…

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Related Articles:

Social Work Personal Statement Guide (w/Examples)

Top 8 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

Best Online MSW Programs in California

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  • Knowledge Base
  • Applying to graduate school
  • 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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Master of Social Work - Guidelines for Preparing the Personal Statement

Guidelines for Preparing the Personal Statement (~600-800 words)

This statement must be included in your application for admission. The autobiographic statement details your interest in social work, including personal experiences, strengths, values and beliefs that will contribute to your competence as a social worker. The autobiographic statement should be a carefully prepared document that is typed and double-spaced, with 1-inch margins and 10-12 font. Please place your name at the top right hand margin on each page and number pages at the bottom center.

Please address the following: 

  • Describe in detail your personal understanding of social work as a profession. 
  • Discuss your interest in rural/non-urban social work practice 
  • What factors influenced your decision to seek graduate social work education at Jacksonville State University? If you have worked or trained in another field, why are you now considering a career change? 
  • Describe the intellectual and personal qualifications that will enable you to practice social work successfully in non-urban/rural social work, for example collaboration with others, leadership ability, ability to empathize, communication and language skills. What limitations do you see in your work experiences, skills, or other attributes, including your awareness of your personal biases that you want to address to ensure your effectiveness in practicing social work? 
  • How will you balance outside responsibilities with academic responsibilities? 
  • Discuss your notable accomplishments, such as related work experience, military experience, volunteer services, other academic accomplishments, etc.

The Magoosh logo is the word Magoosh spelled with each letter o replaced with a check mark in a circle.

Graduate School Personal Statement Examples: Good, Bad, & Everything In Between

A student smiling while holding a pen

Your personal statement should demonstrate that you have thought deeply about why you are making the decision to go to grad school and that your decision is one that will endure the challenges that graduate school presents. Sounds a little challenging? Don’t worry, this blog post will break down the strategy of writing a strong personal statement for graduate school.

Comparing Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

Below I will share types of personal statement examples: one with a strong writing approach and one that lacks clarity and may cause confusion for an admissions committee reader. Then I will describe the strengths and weaknesses of each example.

Introduction Paragraph Examples:

Ex. 1-Strong) The ocean is as fundamental to our lives as any other ecological habitat, so why don’t we have systems in place to treat it that way? Growing up in Monterey, California I was first introduced to marine biology through my advanced placement biology class. While in community college I helped form a student-led monthly beach clean-up team. This rewarding experience led me to pursue an undergraduate degree in Biology with an emphasis in ocean preservation. My passion for developing innovative and culturally informed approaches to marine preservation on a global scale have led me to pursue a doctorate in the field of marine biology. My desired research focus will explore solutions to the impacts of micro plastics in our ocean.

Ex. 2-Weak) Yea sure, the ocean is in a devastated condition, but what are we going to do about it? Well, with my degree in bio I plan to get a PhD in marine biology to help figure out how to address micro plastics in our ocean. I know so much already, and I just know that with a PhD I will be able to contribute on a greater scale. I know the PhD is a lot of work, but I am pretty sure I will be able to complete the program and have a great time doing so. I have always wanted to live in Santa Barbara, and that is definitely a part of my decision to apply to your program.

Conclusion Paragraph Examples:

Ex. 1-Strong) As a first generation college student, and an English language learner, my journey to receive my bachelors of science in marine biology has been tough. Along the way I have developed leadership skills, research and lab experience, as well as a refined passion for the work that marine biologists are able to do when informed by the local community members. I desire to continue my studies with an emphasis on ocean preservation research through the innovative and unique PhD program offered at UC Santa Barbara. It would be an honor to work with Dr. Jonas Mendoza and Dr. Raquel Pacheco, two professors whose work aligns with my research interests and who have been welcoming and encouraging through our email correspondence. While my research goals are ambitious, I am confident that your program offers the resources and mentorship required for a unified effort to resolve the impact that microplastics have on not only human life, but all marine animals and ecosystems.

Ex2. -Weak) I think it’s a miracle that I even completed my B.S degree! That’s how I know that with the funding and laid back atmosphere at UC Santa Barbara I can definitely complete the PhD. I’m not so interested in the teaching part, or the amount of course work I would be required to take, but I just know that once I get out there and get into the water, it will all be worth it. My research experience is competitive and top-notch, I am a great person to work with and easily make friends. I am hopeful to hear back and excited for the next steps! Thanks for reading this far.

Diving Deeper Into Personal Statement Examples

So, let’s discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the examples above!

  • Throughout the paragraph the applicant demonstrates that they have been involved with marine biology since high school, this is important because it demonstrates their commitment to the field early on in the essay
  • The applicant mentions a desire to live in Santa Barbara, while it may be true, it is not a strong enough reason to pursue a PhD and signals to the admissions committee that you may be pursuing the program for the wrong reasons. Keep details like this out of your personal statement and focus on reasons for applying that are academically motivated.
  • The applicant concludes by mentioning the importance of a “unified effort” for their research goals. This goes a long way to demonstrate that they understand how important collaborative effort is. This helps make an applicant more attractive in the eyes of an admissions committee that must also consider the work ethic of all applicants.
  • The applicant describes their research experience as “competitive and top-notch”, even if you have the most impressive curriculum vitae focus on instead listing what you have done, with who and what they outcomes were and let the admissions committee decide how they interpret it.

So, what makes a good personal statement?

Your personal statement will be one amongst many that a committee of real people will read to assess who you are. you have to remember that the committee members do not get to meet you before they read your application materials. you cannot risk leaving out crucial information. oftentimes, students struggle to talk about themselves, they see it as “bragging” or “showing off”. it is important that you overcome your discomfort and realize that the personal statement is essentially the first impression you will make on the committee. make the most of the opportunity to introduce yourself and make sure to address the following:.

  • Why now? Admissions committees have been through graduate school. They know better than anyone that graduate school is not a choice one makes simply because “you don’t know what else to do”. Demonstrate that you are prepared for the commitment and the work by specifying why you have decided that graduate school is the best option for you at this time and that your current and past experiences align with your intentions if admitted into the program.

A good personal statement will address all of these questions and be mindful about appropriate boundaries with each. Ultimately, it will demonstrate to the committee that you are prepared for the program, that you are likely to succeed if admitted, and that you are passionate about and committed to pursuing a career in which the training and the degree that you will receive is imperative to your future goals.

The importance of a clear narrative:

A clear narrative will allow for the admissions committee to extract the necessary information about you without any hassle. Remember that you are one applicant amongst many, when writing your personal statement do not assume that your reader will know the importance of any information or the necessary context if you do not provide these details for them. Consider these tips when writing:

  • Do not overestimate the importance of proofreading! Read your essays out loud and record the audio while doing it. Does it flow? Does it answer every question provided in the prompt (if provided one)? I recommend finding at least one person who is in graduate school and preferably within your field to read your essay.

Summary and Major Takeaways

The personal statement is usually just 1-2 pages. With a document this short and with so much importance towards your chances of admission, every word matters! Consider these takeaways as you prepare and always remember you can reach out to us at Magoosh for more in-depth and personalized support.

Do this before you get to writing. Gather information from this blog post, the programs official website, any correspondence between you and professors or graduate students at each program you will be applying to, and develop a document that lists every experience and detail you wish to include. Use this as a reference as you write so that you are certain you are hitting every point.

Do not skip this step! Seek out support from current graduate students or a writing service for some feedback. Double check for any language that is too casual, or can be off putting or concerning to anyone who will review your application.

Remember that admissions committees are made up of real people who read an unbelievable amount of applications. Do your best to stand out, really think about what sets you apart and what skills you have developed throughout your life that are relevant to the program you are pursuing. After you have your first draft, focus on language and phrases that are both professional and captivating to your reader. Sprinkle in some flare!

Verónica Mandujano

Verónica Mandujano is an Admissions Instructor at Magoosh. She supports students throughout their application process in various forms including live classes on an array of topics, writing support and coaching. She is excited to be able to share from her past and current experiences as a PhD student and as an instructor at the University of California, Santa Barbara where her research employs interdisciplinary methods to address birthing justice, the colonial impacts of obstetrics, and the re-matriation of ancestral plant birthing medicine. She is a creative writer, a proud chihuahua momma, and a firm believer in never putting your taco down once you take the first bite.

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How to Write a Graduate School Personal Statement (with example!)

examples of personal statements for grad school in social work

Varonika Ware is a content writer at Scholarships360. Varonika earned her undergraduate degree in Mass Communications at Louisiana State University. During her time at LSU, she worked with the Center of Academic Success to create the weekly Success Sunday newsletter. Varonika also interned at the Louisiana Department of Insurance in the Public Affairs office with some of her graphics appearing in local news articles.

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examples of personal statements for grad school in social work

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examples of personal statements for grad school in social work

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How to Write a Graduate School Personal Statement (with example!)

Congratulations on finishing your bachelor’s degree, and starting the next chapter! You might be thinking about applying to graduate school, and fortunately, it’s very similar to applying to an undergraduate program. However, it’s probably been a few years since you’ve had to write an application essay, so you might be wondering how to write a personal statement for graduate school. If so, this guide is the perfect resource for you! Keep reading below to find out more, and don’t forget to check out the example of a graduate school personal statement.

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is an essay that encapsulates your personal journey and how that’s shaped who you are as an applicant. They are typically 400-600 words, but can be longer or shorter. 

Be sure not to confuse a personal statement with a statement of purpose as they are two different types of admissions essays. Use this as an opportunity to show colleges what you value and what’s turned you into an ideal student for your desired school. 

What should I write about?

Personal statements are your chance to get, well, personal. While you should answer the prompt in its entirety, you should also write about yourself. Bring a personal element into your essay like family or a story of you overcoming an obstacle. 

Ideally, your story should relate to what you’re trying to accomplish at your graduate school of choice. Tie it all together: your personal experiences, your desired major, and your ideal outcome. 

Tips for writing a personal statement for graduate school

It’s important to start your graduate application as soon as you’re able. Usually, the first round of applications receive the best financial aid packages, so start early! 

Starting sooner can also give you the time to outline your essay and get it read over by your support system. You’ll want it all to be perfect, so don’t rush.

Be transparent

Instead of telling admissions what you think they want to hear, be open and honest about yourself. You want them to understand you, and the only way to do that is to show who you actually are. Offer up personal stories or things that genuinely interest you so that you can show off your sparkling personality!

Be original

Graduate programs are often very competitive since there’s a smaller admissions pool. As a result, your essay should be as original as possible to stand out from the crowd. Tell your story in an organic way, and approach the given prompt with an open mind. 

Related : How to write an essay about yourself

Check your work

It’s extremely important for you to proofread and check for correct spelling and grammar throughout your personal statement. Even simply reading your statement out loud can help you catch any errors and make sure your words flow together. You should also consider having mentors or people within your support system read over your essay to ensure your message is clear.

Common mistakes when writing a graduate school personal statement

Reusing your undergraduate essay .

Reusing your first supplemental essay as a template is a big mistake you want to avoid. Years have passed since then, and you’ve learned new skills and grown as a person and a student. 

The experiences you previously wrote might not resonate with who you are today or tell the graduate team what they want to know about you. It may also have grammatical errors that you might not have noticed before, so take a little extra time to start from scratch and create something new.

Repeating what’s in your resume

It’s likely that your graduate school of choice will require you to upload a copy of your resume as part of your application. Therefore, the admissions committee will already know your professional background, so tell them something else about yourself or provide further depth to a job experience. Repeating yourself only tells them one thing, and you want to be the most well-rounded applicant that you can be.

Graduate school personal statement example

Prompt: Please discuss how your experiences, both personal and professional, have led you to pursue a graduate business degree at this time. What are your short- and long- term goals and how will this program and the J. Mack Robinson College of Business help you achieve these goals? (750 words max)

While many of the applications you receive will detail the many ways that person has been the first to do something, I pose a different perspective: hope to be the last. In other words, you might see me as a first-generation college student, but I see the makings of becoming the last generation to worry about generational wealth in my family. 

Though it is true that I would be the first in my family to get my master’s degree, I’m hoping that my future success means I’ll be the last “first.” It’s not lost on me what this title means, but most of all, it signifies the dawn of an era. A dynasty bred from the struggles and achievements of those before it.

These are big shoes to fill, but I’ve never been afraid of a challenge and the things I’ve learned have helped me secure my future. For example, by observing different business models throughout the years, I found a secret about marketing: people love a product that loves them back. In my case, a product that’s always loved me back were books. I’d fallen in love with bookshelves and bookstores alike, so it only makes sense that a culmination of my love of marketing and books is the goal of one day working in book publishing. I want to know the inner workings of book promotion including design decisions and book tours. Eventually, I plan on working at one of the big publishers such as Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, or Macmillan.

Fortunately, I’ve been given opportunities to decide on my own path, which I hope to execute at Georgia State University. This school’s unique curriculum will be an asset to me since there are classes that specifically cater to buyer behavior, and that’s an area of study I’m particularly interested in. The Social Media Intelligence Lab and social media marketing class will hopefully give me an inside look into influencer marketing and its impact on product profitability. According to your mission statement, GSU educates future leaders, and I want to be a part of that.

As a mentor of mine once said, knowledge is meant to be shared, and if it isn’t, it’s control. I hope to build up the people around me with knowledge and experiences as I go out into the professional world just as I hope this program will do for me. If I’m accepted into this program, I plan on using my creativity and drive for not only my success, but for my family’s as well. There may be times I fall short of a goal, but failure isn’t an option. Each benchmark professors put in front of me will be conquered, and one day, I’ll be one of your notable alumni. 

Why this essay works:

  • The writer clearly researched the school and understands its values
  • The prompt is answered completely and seamlessly
  • The applicant knew their goals and thought of ways to achieve them at the college 
  • This statement communicates not only what the college gains from this applicant’s admission, but also what the applicant gains
  • It’s also well within the word limit

Frequently asked questions about how to write a graduate school personal statement

Do i have to write a personal statement to get into graduate school, how long is graduate school, do i have to take an exam to get into graduate school, scholarships360 recommended.

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100+ Grad School Personal Statement Examples

examples of personal statements for grad school in social work

by Talha Omer, MBA, M.Eng., Harvard & Cornell Grad

In personal statement samples by field | personal statements samples by university.

In this Article

Importance of a Strong Personal Statement

Purpose of this blog post, length and format, tone and style, general tips for success, computer science and engineering, economics and finance, management and business, healthcare and medicine, environment and sustainability, public affairs, international relations and politics, architecture, arts and film, mathematics and statistics, religion and philosophy, phd personal statement examples, scholarship & fellowship personal statements, word count-specific personal statements, prompt-specific grad school personal statements examples, academic achievements and experiences, research experiences, work and internship experiences, volunteer and community service, personal growth and overcoming challenges, future goals and career aspirations, research the program and faculty, emphasize alignment with program objectives, highlight unique program offerings, overused phrases and clichés , excessive self-praise, lack of focus or organization, consulting mentors, and advisors, incorporating feedback and refine, introduction.

A personal statement is essential in the graduate school application process, as it plays a significant role in shaping the admissions committee’s perception of you. In fact, a survey conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools revealed that 64% of graduate admissions officers consider the personal statement to be the most crucial factor in the admissions process. Furthermore, according to a study by Kaplan Test Prep, a well-crafted personal statement can boost an applicant’s chances of acceptance by up to 50%.

The personal statement’s importance stems from its ability to create a lasting impression on the admissions committee. 

Consider this: the admissions committee (adcom) does not know you personally. They have never met or spoken to you, nor have they ever interviewed you. They only know you through quantifiable aspects such as your GPA, test scores, and work experience. However, they lack insight into your thought processes, aspirations, background, and personal experiences. In essence, they need to connect with you on a personal level. The personal statement serves as a bridge, enabling the adcom, who are human beings themselves, to gain insight into your personality, motivations, and aspirations beyond your grades and test scores.

Time and again, adcoms at top universities emphasize the critical role of personal statements in their decision-making process. Drafting a personal statement is your opportunity to market yourself, showcasing your unique qualities and demonstrating your genuine interest in their program. By investing time and effort into creating a powerful personal statement, you can significantly enhance your chances of securing a place in your desired graduate program.

In this blog post, I will be sharing over 100 authentic graduate school personal statement examples from successful applicants across the globe who have secured admission to prestigious programs in the United States and across the world.

These samples encompass a wide range of fields, including MBA, Law, Medicine, Engineering, and Social Work, and originate from esteemed institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. You will find examples of personal statements for various degrees, including MSc, MA, LLM, Residency, MBA, and PhD programs. You will also find examples of statements written by applicants who obtained fellowships, and scholarships. By sharing these diverse examples, I aim to achieve the following goals:

  • Inspiration and guidance: I want to provide you guys with a wide range of personal statement examples to serve as inspiration and offer guidance for making your own statements.
  • Addressing common topics: These samples will cover all the common personal statement elements, helping you understand how to effectively discuss your academic achievements, research experiences, work history, volunteer work, personal growth, and future goals.
  • Tips for success: The post will also provide helpful tips on tailoring personal statements to specific graduate programs, avoiding common pitfalls, and seeking feedback to improve the final draft.
  • Empowerment: Ultimately, the goal of sharing these for free is to empower you guys to create compelling and unique personal statements that will increase your chances of being accepted into your dream graduate program.

By providing this comprehensive resource, I hope to demystify the personal statement writing process and equip you with the tools and inspiration necessary to craft a captivating narrative that reflects your unique journey and aspirations. 

Personal Statement Basics

When writing your personal statement, it’s crucial to pay attention to three key areas: length and format, tone and style, and general tips for success.

It’s important to create a well-structured personal statement that adheres to the specified word count and follows proper formatting guidelines. Some programs, particularly MBA programs, might not request a single personal statement. Instead, they may pose several questions and require you to write a brief essay for each one. Such programs typically break down a personal statement into multiple short questions, expecting essay responses tailored to each query. 

As a result, it’s crucial to carefully read the guidelines before you start writing, as students often mistakenly create a single personal statement and try to tweak it for various programs without realizing that different requirements exist. By doing so, they lose time and waste considerable effort and energy. 

Adhering to instructions and responding appropriately will leave a positive impression on the admissions committee. To accomplish this, consider these key aspects:

  • Word count: Most graduate programs provide guidelines on the desired length of personal statements, typically ranging from 500 to 2,000 words.Adhere to these limits to show that you can follow instructions and communicate concisely.
  • Formatting: Use a clear and easy-to-read font (e.g., Times New Roman or Arial) at a standard size (e.g., 11 or 12 points) with 1-inch margins. Ensure your document is well-organized with paragraphs and headings where appropriate.
  • Structure: Start with a strong opening paragraph that hooks the reader, followed by body paragraphs addressing the key topics, and conclude with a memorable closing paragraph that reinforces your main points. This structure will ensure a cohesive and engaging narrative that effectively communicates your experiences and aspirations to the admissions committee.

In terms of tone and style, your personal statement should strike a balance between professionalism and authenticity to effectively convey your unique experiences and perspective. To accomplish this, consider the following aspects:

  • Professional and confident: Adopt a professional tone in your writing, using clear, concise language. Be confident in presenting your accomplishments without being overly boastful.
  • Authentic and personal: Avoid overly formal or academic language that may make your writing feel impersonal. Showcasing your authentic self will help the admissions committee connect with you on a personal level.
  • Engaging storytelling: Use storytelling techniques to make your personal statement more engaging and memorable. This can include anecdotes, vivid descriptions, and a strong narrative structure. Starting with a quote that is relevant to your story is also a good way to begin your personal statement.

Lastly, adhering to tried and tested tips can greatly improve your personal statement, ensuring you present a polished and compelling narrative that effectively showcases your strengths and aspirations to the admissions committee. Some general advice is as follows::

  • Start early: Give yourself ample time to brainstorm, write, revise, and seek feedback on your personal statement. On average. Grad school applicants spend 20+ hours in perfecting a personal statement of 1000 words. Moreover, they have their personal statement reviewed and redrafted 5 times on average.  
  • Be focused and organized: Clearly structure your personal statement, addressing the main topics and ensuring your narrative flows logically from one point to the next. A well-organized statement will demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively and coherently.
  • Proofread and edit: Carefully review your personal statement for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Use free tools like grammarly to remove any unwanted errors in your writing.
  • Seek feedback: Share your personal statement with your mentors, or peers, to gather valuable feedback. I especially recommend that you show your essay to someone who has already gone through the process successfully as they know the ins and outs well. Then, incorporate this feedback to refine and strengthen your final draft.

To help you get started and see everything that I just discussed in action, here is a list of 100+ personal statement examples from successful graduate school applicants.

Grad School Personal Statement Examples by Field of Study

  • Example Personal Statement Computer Science (Admitted to Oxford with Low GPA )
  • Example Personal Statement Computer Science (Admitted to Stanford )
  • Example Personal Statement Computer Science (Admitted to Cambridge PhD )
  • Example Personal Statement Artificial Intelligence (Admitted to UCLA)
  • Example Personal Statement Machine Learning (Admitted to Duke )
  • Example Personal Statement Data Science and Analytics (Admitted to CMU )
  • Example Personal Statement Data Analytics (Admitted to Georgia Tech )
  • Example Personal Statement Advanced Analytics (Admitted to NCSU )
  • Example Personal Statement Mechanical Engineering (Admitted to USC , Imperial )
  • Example Personal Statement Economics (Admitted to LSE )
  • Example Personal Statement Economics (Admitted to Oxbridge )
  • Example Personal Statement Finance (Admitted to MIT Sloan )
  • Example Personal Statement Financial Engineering (Admitted to UC Berkeley )
  • Example Personal Statement Financial Engineering (Admitted to UCLA )
  • Example Personal Statement Accounting & Finance (Admitted to Michigan University)
  • Example Personal Statement Investment Banking (Admitted to UPenn )
  • Example Personal Statement (Admitted to Georgetown )
  • Example Personal Statement (Admitted to Harvard LLM )
  • Example Personal Statement (Admitted to Northwestern )
  • Example Personal Statement (Admitted to NYU , Duke )
  • 8 MBA Personal Statements (All IVY LEAGUES )
  • Example BA Essays ( INSEAD )
  • Example MBA Essays ( Kellogg Northwestern )
  • Example Personal Statement Operations Management (Admitted to MIT PHD)
  • Example Personal Statement Management (Admitted to Duke )
  • Example Personal Statement Marketing (Admitted to NYU , Cornell )
  • Example Personal Statement Business Analytics (Admitted to MIT , CMU )
  • Example Personal Statement Management & Analytics (Admitted to LBS )
  • Example Personal Statement Project Management (Admitted to UT Austin )
  • Example Personal Statement Logistics & Supply Chain (Admitted to Boston . Penn State )
  • Example Personal Statement Supply Chain Management (Admitted to MIT )
  • Example Personal Statement Teaching ( Scholarship US State Department)
  • Example Education Personal Statement (Admitted to UPenn , NYU , UCLA )
  • Example Personal Statement Education Policy (Admitted to USC )
  • Example Personal Statement Special Education Teacher (Admitted to TUFTS )
  • Example Personal Statement of an Aspiring Teacher (Admitted to American University )
  • Example Personal Statement Residency in Internal Medicine (Admitted to ASU )
  • Example Personal Statement Counseling (Admitted to Harvard , Yale )
  • Example Personal Statement Psychology (Admitted to NYU Steinhardt)
  • Example Personal Statement Nursing (Admitted to Duke , Ohio)
  • Example Personal Statement Public Health (MPH) (Admitted to Columbia , Emory)
  • Example Personal Statement Social Work (MSW) (Admitted to Columbia )
  • Example Personal Statement Veterinary (Admitted to UC Davis , CSU , Edinburgh)
  • Example Personal Statement Biochemistry (Admitted to Johns Hopkins )
  • Example Personal Statement Biology (Admitted to JHU )
  • Example Personal Statement Anthropology (Admitted to Stanford )
  • Example Personal Statement Environment and Sustainability (admitted to Stanford , CALTECH )
  • Example Personal Statement Environmental Sustainability and Energy Management (Admitted to Yale , Duke )
  • Example Personal Statement International Relations (Admitted to Columbia , Cornell )
  • Example Personal Statement Political Science (Admitted to Duke , UCLA , NYU )
  • Example Personal Statement Public Administration MPA (Admitted to Columbia , Harvard )
  • Example Personal Statement Public Policy MPP (Admitted to Harvard , Brown , Erasmus Mundus Scholarship )
  • Example Personal Statement Architecture (Admitted to Cambridge , Cornell , Yale )
  • Example Personal Statement MFA (Admitted to New School and Rhode Island )
  • Example Personal Statement in Filmmaking (Admitted to New York Film Academy )
  • Example Personal Statement Fashion and Textile (Admitted to Parsons , Royal College of Arts )
  • Example Personal Statement Math (Admitted to Oxbridge )
  • Example Personal Statement Statistics (Admitted to NCSU , Cornell )
  • Example Personal Statement Religious Studies (Admitted to Columbia , Harvard )
  • Example Personal Statement 1 (Admitted to MIT )
  • Example Personal Statement 2 (Admitted to Cambridge )
  • Example Research Statement (Admitted to JHU )
  • Example Statement of Research Interests (Admitted to Scripps )
  • Example Statement of Objectives (Admitted to MIT )
  • Example Personal StatemenT MS leading to Ph.D. (Admitted to Notre Dame )

These essays are written by applicants who are seeking financial aid or funding to support their graduate studies. In most cases, the program does not require a separate essay or application for the scholarship or fellowship, but in a few cases they do.

Most external donors do require a separate application such as the Fulbright program.

The purpose of these essays is to convince the selection committee that the applicant is the best candidate for the scholarship or fellowship.

  • Scholarship Personal Statement Example (Won $250,000 Scholarship )
  • Scholarship Personal Statement Example (Won Erasmus Mundus Scholarship )
  • Fellowship Personal Statement Example (Won MIT Sloan Fellowship )
  • Scholarship Personal Statement Example 1 (Won Fulbright Scholarship )
  • Scholarship Personal Statement Example 2 (Won Fulbright Scholarship )

Word Count-Specific Personal Statements have a specific word count limit, which must be adhered to by the applicant. These are often required as part of graduate school applications, where the admissions committee wants to ensure that all applicants are providing the same amount of information and not exceeding or falling short of the specified word count.

Writing a word count-specific personal statement can be challenging, as applicants must balance providing enough detail to adequately convey their story and goals, while also being concise and staying within the specified limit. However, meeting the word count requirement is essential for demonstrating an applicant’s ability to communicate effectively, follow instructions, and prioritize information.

Here are a few examples of word-count specific personal statements.

  • 100 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 150 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 200 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 250 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 300 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 400 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 500 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 600 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 700 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 750 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 800 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 1000 Word Personal Statement Example

Prompt specific personal statements are statements that are tailored to answer a specific question or prompt in a personal statement. These statements are typically used in graduate school applications, especially MBA apps. These essays usually have a word-limit as well.

The purpose of a question specific personal statement is to demonstrate to the admissions committee that the applicant has the skills, knowledge, and experience required to succeed in the program. By directly addressing the prompt or question, the applicant can provide a focused and coherent response that highlights their relevant qualities and accomplishments.

For example, if a prompt asks an applicant to discuss their leadership experience, a question specific personal statement would focus on describing specific instances where the applicant demonstrated leadership skills and qualities, such as problem-solving, decision-making, and effective communication.

Here are some samples on Question or Prompt Specific Personal Statements.

  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on Career Goals
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on Values that have Influenced You
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on Leadership
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on Describe a Challenge you Faced and How you Overcame it?
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on My Passion in Life
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on Why do you want to become a doctor?
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement Example 1 ( Responses to 6 Prompts for Fellowship)
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement Example 2 ( Responses to 5 Prompts for Duke)
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement Example 3 ( Responses to 3 Prompts for MIT)
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement Example 4 ( Responses to 4 Prompts for LBS)
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement Example 5 ( Responses to 4 Prompts for UC Berkeley)
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement Example 6 ( Responses to 4 Prompts for MIT)

Addressing Common Personal Statement Components

In this section, I will explore the various components that commonly make up a well-rounded personal statement.I have also discussed these in a lot more detail in a blog post here . In that post, I have also shared various examples of personal statements that show how you can put these components in an essay form. Furthermore, that blog post also introduces an 8-point framework designed to assist you in evaluating and rating your personal statement draft.

When applying for graduate programs that are academic in nature, such as PhD, Master of Science, or Master of Arts, it’s essential to emphasize your academic achievements and experiences in your personal statement. To effectively showcase your educational background, you can do the following:

  • Highlight relevant coursework: Discuss courses that have prepared you for graduate study and demonstrate your passion for the subject.
  • Showcase your academic accomplishments: Mention awards, honors, high GPA, or scholarships you’ve received, and explain their significance.
  • Share influential academic experiences: Describe any conferences, workshops, or seminars you’ve attended, and explain how they’ve shaped your understanding of your field.

When applying for research-oriented programs such as PhD, post-doc, or research-based masters, it’s crucial to emphasize your research background, experiences, and achievements in your personal statement. To effectively highlight your research accomplishments, consider including the following in your personal statement:

  • Describe your research projects: Outline the relevant research you’ve conducted, including the objectives, methodology, and results.
  • Emphasize your role: Detail your specific contributions (co-contributor, co-author, lead researcher) to the research project, highlighting your skills and expertise.
  • Discuss the impact: Explain how your research has contributed to the field (maybe you got published in a journal, got a patent or published a white paper). You can also discuss how it influenced your career goals.

When composing your personal statement, it’s a good idea to show your work and internship experiences, as they highlight your practical skills and dedication to your chosen field. These experiences are especially significant for those applying to professional programs such as MBA, Project Management, and Masters in Engineering. 

However, they can also add considerable value to applications for academic or research-based programs. To effectively emphasize your work experiences and their relevance to your graduate studies, take into account the following aspects:

  • Detail relevant experiences: Discuss any internships, part-time jobs, or full-time positions related to your field, highlighting the skills you’ve gained.
  • Demonstrate transferable skills: Show how your work experience has equipped you with valuable skills (e.g., teamwork, leadership, problem-solving) that can be applied to your graduate studies.
  • Share meaningful moments: Describe any significant projects, accomplishments, or challenges you’ve encountered during your work experience that have shaped your perspective or goals.

In your personal statement, highlighting your volunteer and community service experiences can be a valuable addition, particularly for programs that emphasize social impact or community engagement, such as social work, public health, or education.

These experiences demonstrate your commitment to making a difference, and they showcase your ability to apply the skills and knowledge gained in real-world situations. Additionally, they reflect your extroverted nature, openness to new ideas, and willingness to engage with people from diverse backgrounds. 

Emphasizing your involvement in volunteer work and community service not only reveals your personal growth and alignment with your field of study but also highlights your ability to work collaboratively, appreciate different perspectives, and contribute positively to society. To give you some idea, you can demonstrate your service to the community by doing the following in your personal statement:

  • Showcase your involvement: Discuss volunteer work, community service, or extracurricular activities you’ve participated in that are relevant to your field of study or personal growth.
  • Emphasize personal growth: Describe the impact of these experiences on your personal development, such as gaining empathy, cultural competence, or leadership skills.
  • Connect to your field: Explain how your volunteer or community service experiences relate to your graduate studies and future career aspirations.

By sharing the obstacles you’ve faced and the lessons you’ve learned from them, you demonstrate your resilience, adaptability, and motivation. Connecting these experiences to your academic and career goals will further emphasize your determination to succeed in your chosen field and your readiness for the rigors of graduate study. Here are some ideas to get you started with this:

  • Share your story: Discuss any personal challenges or obstacles you’ve faced and how they’ve shaped your character, values, or motivations.
  • Demonstrate resilience: Explain how you’ve overcome these challenges and what you’ve learned from the experience.
  • Relate to your academic and career goals: Show how your personal growth and experiences have influenced your decision to pursue graduate studies and your future career aspirations.

Your personal statement should also address your future goals and career aspirations. You should discuss both your short-term (3-5 year) and long-term (10-15 year) goals in your grad school personal statement. 

Explain the motivation behind them, and connect these goals to the graduate program you’re applying to. This will show that you have a clear plan for your academic and professional journey, and that the program is an essential stepping stone toward achieving your goals. Here is a helping hand that will assist you include this element in your essay.

  • Outline your short-term and long-term goals: Discuss your objectives for both your graduate studies and your future career, demonstrating a clear vision of your path.
  • Explain your passion and motivation: Share the driving forces behind your goals, showcasing your enthusiasm and dedication to your field of study.
  • Connect your goals to the graduate program: Illustrate how the specific graduate program you’re applying to will help you achieve your academic and career objectives.

Tailoring your Personal Statement for Specific Schools

One common mistake that applicants make is submitting a generic personal statement to multiple programs. This can significantly reduce their chances of admission. 

Universities appreciate when applicants have taken the time to research the specific program, courses, faculty, and research facilities, demonstrating genuine interest and effort. 

While it’s acceptable to have a core personal statement that outlines your personal story, achievements, and interests, it’s crucial to tailor part of the essay to the particular program you are applying to. By customizing your personal statement, you show the admissions committee that you’ve done your homework.

Here I have some suggestions for you that you can use to tailor your personal statement for the specific program.

To tailor your personal statement for specific schools, it’s essential to thoroughly research the program and faculty at each institution. This involves exploring the program’s curriculum, core and optional course offerings, summer internship placement opportunities, industry-affiliated projects that are available, faculty research interests, and the school’s overall reputation in your field. By understanding these aspects, you can demonstrate your genuine interest in the program and highlight how your background and goals align with the faculty and coursework offered.

Once you have a solid understanding of the program and faculty, emphasize the alignment between your own values, objectives, and the program’s values and objectives in your personal statement. This can include showcasing your commitment to the program’s core principles, highlighting your passion for the program’s focus areas, and demonstrating your enthusiasm for working with particular faculty members on research or projects that align with your interests.

Each graduate program may have unique offerings that set it apart from others, such as specialized courses, research centers, or industry partnerships. In your personal statement, highlight these distinctive features and explain how they will benefit you. By doing this, you show the admissions committee that you have carefully considered the program’s offerings and have a clear understanding of how they will contribute to your academic and professional growth.

Personal Statement Pitfalls to Avoid

When writing your personal statement, you should be watchful of common traps that can diminish the impact of your narrative. Avoiding these mistakes will help you create a nice, well-rounded and unique story that will stand out to the adcom.

I have also discussed these in a lot more detail in a blog post here . In that post, I have also shared various examples of personal statements that avoid these traps and some that fall for them.

Here are some critical pitfalls to avoid:

Avoid relying on common phrases or clichés in your personal statement. Nearly all the personal statement templates use clichés like, such as “I’ve always known that I wanted to…”, “I have a thirst for knowledge.”, “I want to give back to society.”, “Ever since I can remember…”. These can make your writing appear as copy paste, dull and boring. Instead, you should try to be creative and unique and use expressions that genuinely reflect your own individual experiences and motivations.

While it’s essential to showcase your achievements and strengths, be cautious not to overdo self-promotion. Overly boastful or self-aggrandizing language can be off-putting to the reader and you could come across as arrogant and self-conceited. Focus on presenting your accomplishments and experiences in a balanced and authentic manner, highlighting the impact and the lessons learned from them. In short, stay humble.

A disorganized or unfocused personal statement can make it difficult for the admissions committee to grasp your main points or understand your narrative. Ensure your personal statement is well-structured, with clear coherence between paragraphs and a logical progression of ideas. Stay focused on only talking about experiences that are relevant to your field of study. However, if you want to talk about something that you feel is important for the application but is not relevant to the chosen program, just touch upon it in your essay.

Again, I would recommend you to go through this post where I have delved deeper into the things you should avoid. Additionally, in that post I have also provided you with a 7-point framework that you can use to circumvent the common pitfalls often encountered in personal statements.

Seeking Feedback and Revising Your Personal Statement

Before submitting your personal statement, it’s essential to seek and incorporate feedback. Applicants who create successful personal statements spend 20 hours on average on creating the perfect essay. You should consult mentors, advisors, and peers, to refine your narrative. This section will guide you through the process of seeking feedback and making revisions to optimize your personal statement.

Seek input from individuals who know you well and have experience with the application process. I would also recommend that you should ask feedback from people who have successfully gone through the process in the past. Their feedback can help you identify areas for improvement, and ensure your narrative aligns properly.

After receiving feedback from various sources, take the time to thoughtfully consider their suggestions and incorporate them into your personal statement. Remember that not all feedback may be applicable or useful, so use your judgment to determine which revisions will enhance your narrative. Continue refining your personal statement through multiple drafts, ensuring your final version presents a polished and compelling story that showcases your strengths and aspirations.

I hope that these 100+ personal statement examples for graduate school and all the associated tips will provide you with the inspiration, guidance, and ideas you need to create a captivating narrative of your own. As you embark on this journey, remember that dedication, self-reflection, and resilience are key to putting up a persuasive narrative. Remember, there is no short-cut to success. Good luck, and we can’t wait to see where your academic journey takes you!

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3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

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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:

  • 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.

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.

Article written by Ellen McCammon. Originally published on PrepScholar.com.

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  1. PDF Personal Statement Master's in Social Work (MSW)

    Personal Statement Master's in Social Work (MSW) 3 After graduating from the University of Connecticut, I began working as a mental health worker at a residential treatment program, where I provided emergency stabilization and support to children experiencing emotional, behavioral, and psychiatric crises. The clients served by this

  2. Strong Social Work Personal Statement Examples

    Social Work Personal Statement Example 1. In the vast and dynamic field of social work, where every action holds the potential to transform people's lives in meaningful ways, I find myself both humbled and impassioned by the experiences that have shaped my journey. From my earliest life encounters to my current professional role, the pursuit ...

  3. Master of Social Work Personal Statement Example

    Once you've uncovered insights, you can talk about a social justice issue related to your experience and goals. Example: "The research shows that people from South Asian cultures are more receptive to social workers from the same background who understand their needs, yet, there is a lack of South Asian social workers to meet this need." Using research in your personal statement shows ...

  4. 3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples • Pr

    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:

  5. Guide to Crafting a Perfect Social Work Personal Statement

    Prepare an Outline and Conduct Research. Create an outline of the points you want to include. Fill in your points with relevant research and examples from your personal and professional experience. Don't worry about having too much research or too many points in your outline. You can always cut it down later.

  6. How to Write an Effective Personal Statement for Grad School

    Let's look at a personal statement of a past MSW applicant: Applicant name: Sally. Experiences: Sally works at a women's shelter and talks about what she learned there. Social Justice Issue: Sally decides to talk about an issue within child welfare. Goal: Sally mentions that she wants to get an MSW so that she can qualify for a job at the ...

  7. Graduate School Admissions: Writing an Effective Personal Statement

    This article focuses on the central role that the personal statement plays in the MSW application process. Strategies are presented for writing an effective statement that will highlight and emphasize applicant strengths congruent with the values of particular Schools of Social Work. The author has chaired the MSW Admissions Committee at the ...

  8. PDF Personal Statement

    Personal Evaluation — Describe why you think you will make a good clinical social work student as well as an effective social worker. Discuss your readiness for rigorous graduate work, your ability to manage the heavy demands of graduate school with your other personal and professional responsibilities, your strengths and weaknesses, and why ...

  9. Masters in social work personal statement

    May, 2022. If you'd like to become a social worker but didn't study the subject at undergraduate level then a Masters degree is essential for entry into the profession. You'll need to write a personal statement that coveys your commitment and passion to social work. Writing a personal statement for a vocational postgraduate course, like the MSc ...

  10. MSW Personal Statement Tips & Examples

    MSW personal statement examples and tips. With that in mind, here are our tips for composing a winning MSW statement of purpose for graduate social work admissions:. Articulate your inspiration for, and interest in social work: What life experiences, including jobs or volunteer positions, have inspired you?Share all positions you have held (if any), and their impacts on your aspirations.

  11. Sample Personal Statement Social Work (MSW)

    in Personal Statement Samples by Field. The following personal statement is written by an applicant who got accepted to Masters's program in Social Work (MSW) with a concentration in Gender and Sex studies and a specialization in LGBTQ. Variations of this personal statement got accepted at Columbia University and UNC-Chapel Hill.

  12. 10 MSW Personal Statement Examples (with Commentary)

    The statement shows maturity and readiness for the challenges of graduate study in social work. Example 8: University of Pittsburg MSW Personal Statement Sample Prompt: Please describe in your personal statement the following: Influences in your life that led you to select social work as a profession

  13. PDF Traditional (Non-Advanced Standing) Statement of Purpose

    The personal statement is an opportunity for you to highlight your preparation to enter a graduate program, but also for us to get to know you. The personal statement should be roughly 3-5 pages, written in12pt Times New Roman, double-spaced, with one-inch margin. ... for graduate studies in social work.

  14. Social Worker Personal Statement

    As a prospective social work student, I recognised that my own life experiences, both personal and professional, could pave the way for a career devoted to addressing social problems, advocating for vulnerable people, and tackling issues of social injustice. This example personal statement will inspire you to write your own unique social work ...

  15. How to Write Your Personal Statement

    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 ...

  16. Master of Social Work

    The autobiographic statement details your interest in social work, including personal experiences, strengths, values and beliefs that will contribute to your competence as a social worker. The autobiographic statement should be a carefully prepared document that is typed and double-spaced, with 1-inch margins and 10-12 font. Please place your ...

  17. PDF How to Get Started on Your Graduate School Personal Statement

    Statement of purpose: sample prompts "Please upload a statement of 500-1,000 words explaining why you are applying to Yale for graduate study. Describe your research interests and preparation for your intended field(s) of study, including prior research and other relevant experiences. Relate how the faculty, research, and

  18. Graduate School Personal Statement Examples: Good, Bad ...

    Comparing Graduate School Personal Statement Examples. Below I will share types of personal statement examples: one with a strong writing approach and one that lacks clarity and may cause confusion for an admissions committee reader. ... I know the PhD is a lot of work, but I am pretty sure I will be able to complete the program and have a ...

  19. How to Write a Graduate School Personal Statement (with example!)

    Personal statements are your chance to get, well, personal. While you should answer the prompt in its entirety, you should also write about yourself. Bring a personal element into your essay like family or a story of you overcoming an obstacle. Ideally, your story should relate to what you're trying to accomplish at your graduate school of ...

  20. Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School 2022+

    Graduate Personal Statement Examples. Below are three personal statement examples for grad school. Read these to get an idea of what to expect when writing yours. Keep in mind that different schools may have specific requirements. Some might give you a prompt to write your personal statement. Make sure to answer the prompt fully.

  21. 100+ Grad School Personal Statement Examples

    Start early: Give yourself ample time to brainstorm, write, revise, and seek feedback on your personal statement. On average. Grad school applicants spend 20+ hours in perfecting a personal statement of 1000 words. Moreover, they have their personal statement reviewed and redrafted 5 times on average.

  22. 16 Winning Personal Statement Examples (And Why They Work)

    Here are 16 personal statement examples—both school and career—to help you create your own: 1. Personal statement example for graduate school. A personal statement for graduate school differs greatly from one to further your professional career. It is usually an essay, rather than a brief paragraph. Here is an example of a personal ...

  23. 3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

    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: This statement is ...

  24. Social Work Personal Statement Examples

    Social Work Personal Statement Example 6. I am applying for a place to study social work because I have always wanted to be able to make a difference to people's lives. With social work I believe I can do this in a caring and supportive way. I have gained some insight into mental health while caring for my grandma and the difficulties she faced ...