Personal statements and statements of purpose are documents that typically carry a lot of weight within your application package. Your grades, test scores, and accomplishments give recruiters an idea of how likely you are to succeed in their program, but your statement is a chance to tell recruiters:

  • Who you are beyond your test scores and grades?
  • What differentiates you from other applicants?
  • Why should they put their faith in you as a candidate?

Though personal statements and statements of purpose sounds very similar, there are subtle differences between the two.

A STATEMENT OF PURPOSE is a focused explanation of why you are applying to a specific program. You may want to explain details such as how your research interests align with a professor in this particular program, or how this program offers a unique focus or combination of disciplines that fit your academic goals more closely than other programs. When writing a statement of purpose, avoid using flowery language or analogies that do not directly address why you wish to study in this particular program.

A PERSONAL STATEMENT has more flexibility, and is often designed to gain more insight about your character and aspirations, rather than the program itself. Personal statements tend to be better for describing your passion for your field, why you are choosing to pursue a graduate degree, and where you would like to go with it. While you should still touch on why you are a good fit for this specific program, you have more freedom in how you choose to convey that message.

Occasionally, programs will ask for both types of statements. This can seem especially daunting having to craft two distinct pictures of yourself, but is manageable as long as you’re sure to organize your thoughts. When asked for both types, the best path to follow is to write your statement of purpose first, laying out all the specific details and describing your intent. It will then be easier to move on in the personal statement to describing why you chose this path, or what indirect experiences may have impacted your journey. 

Want to know more? Check out the PURDUE OWL to view tips on how to write a Personal Statement and examples!