The first step to applying to graduate school is to write a personal statement, a statement of purpose, or both.
While these documents are more or less about you, they serve varying objectives, and therefore it’s important to know the difference between the two before writing them.
This guide is all about a statement of purpose vs a personal statement. You’ll learn:
- What each statement is
- The similarity and differences between the two documents
- Some tips you can use to write killer statements that can will you a spot in a graduate school.
Let’s get started.
Statement of Purpose vs a Personal Statement: The Difference
The biggest difference between a statement of purpose and a personal statement is the role each plays.
On the one hand, a personal statement tells your story, from events that have had an impact in your life and motivation for wanting to take part in a program to the challenges you’ve faced and your achievements.
On the other hand, a statement of purpose highlights what you intend to bring to the table, and in particular your ambition and career goals.
Let’s expand on each to learn the difference.
A personal statement talks about you. It highlights the challenges you faced in life, your past accomplishments, and what inspires you to apply to a particular program.
In a personal statement, there’s more breathing space to write just about anything you’d like. For example, you’re free to explain how and why you ended up choosing your field of interest, highlight your personal experiences, and write more about the different aspects of your life.
Because a personal statement is wider in scope, it’s more than backward looking. Instead of just focusing on the things you’ve done in the past in readiness for the future, an admissions committee may also require you to state your current goals and your long-term vision, and at the same time demonstrate how the program you’re applying to will help you to achieve those goals.
Whichever approach you take to come up with the statement, you need to make sure the essay demonstrates your readiness for the program in terms of skills and characters. Also, it should explicitly explain why you’re the right candidate for the program.
Statement of Purpose
As the phrase suggests, a statement of purpose expresses your overall intention for taking an interest in a particular program.
It’s in a statement of purpose that you explain why you chose the university, what you intend to do if you get an admission to the program, why you want to enroll to the program, and the research you wish to engage in.
The admissions committee expects you to highlight your academic background and strength, mention the researches you’ve done before, and communicate your research interests and career goals.
Overall, a statement purpose is forward-looking, as it’s concerned with specific details on your future career plans as well as research goals.
For what it’s worth, we encourage that you firmly base your statement of purpose on your interests, credentials, and qualifications.
Statement of Purpose vs a Personal Statement: The Similarities
Although a personal statement and statement of purpose communicate different messages to an admissions panel, they both serve a similar purpose.
Written well, a statement of purpose and a personal statement can convince the admissions committee that you’re the best candidate for the program in question.
Tips to Help You Write a Good Personal Statement and a Statement of Purpose
Stick to the Word Limit
Both statement of purpose and a personal statement are 1 to 2 pages long.
However, some institutions will have their own word limit, in which case you should stick to these requirements. When you’re free to decide the length, more than 2 pages may be inappropriate and ineffective.
Longer statements tend to be boring and tiresome to read. Short, concise, and well-written essays, on the other hand, will win the day.
Start with a hook, a couple of good paragraphs, a strong conclusion, and you’re good to go. If you can make every word count, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t win an admissions panel over.
Demonstrate Your Skills
The two documents should demonstrate your skills as proof that you know what you’re talking about. So show, don’t just show.
Write According to the Instructions
Follow instructions provided as you write your personal statement and/or statement of purpose.
An admission panel will screen your application against their requirements and eliminate you from the rest of the applicants if they find you failed to follow their instructions.
Be Truthful and Authentic
When it comes to writing a personal statement and/or a statement of purpose, using a simple language is the way to go.
It temps to use flowery phrases and Shakespearean sonnet, but it’s hard to keep up with these and still remain as authentic.
If anything, write in a natural voice, the same way you would when speaking to a friend.
Also, be truthful. Refrain from putting down statements that far mismatches your personality.
The admissions committee can easily know if you’re lying in your statements or otherwise. So be as straightforward as you possibly can.
Edit Your Essay Thoroughly
It doesn’t make sense to just write a statement of purpose or a personal statement and not edit it at all.
Complete the statement, walk away from it for a while, and then come back and edit it sentence after sentence.
If you don’t have the time to edit the work yourself, you can hire the service of Help for Assessment to get the proofreading done fast.
It’s important to keep in mind that a program may give you a step-by-step guide on what to include in your personal statement and statement of purpose. Or they may leave it all open for you to figure things out.
Whichever the case, it’s important to include the most relevant details to the documents, and give all the best point to grab the attention of an admissions committee so that they can pick you as the best candidate for the program.
Also, it’s up to you to decide if you’ll use the same personal statement or statement of purpose to apply to numerous graduate projects.
You do want to stand out, so maybe writing separate statements may be ideal, although there’s nothing wrong with using the same statement to apply to multiple programs.
What matters is how you shape the essay. And if you do it right, you boost your chances of providing the admissions panel with the information they need to not only know more about you but also select you as the ideal candidate for the program.