Grad School Personal Statement Examples

Get accepted to your top choice graduate school with your compelling personal statement.

You are a thoughtful, intelligent, and unique individual. You already know that – now you just need to convince top grad school adcoms that you’re a cut above the rest.

By reading the sample graduate school essays provided above, you should get a clear idea of how to translate your qualifications, passions, and individual experiences into words. You will see that the samples here employ a creative voice, use detailed examples, and draw the reader in with a clear writing style. Most importantly, these personal statements are compelling – each one does a fine job of convincing you that the author of the essay is a human being worth getting to know, or better yet, worth having in your next top grad school class. Grad school statement of purpose sample essays should be engaging and attention grabbing.

Here are the 5 things to include in a grad school personal statement:

  1. Engaging opening
  2. Consistent use of opening imagery
  3. A clear theme that ties the essay together
  4. Solid structure
  5. Good use of transitions

Grad school essay example #1: The environmental studies student

Two scenes stand out in my mind from my visit to Brazil’s Wetland: Forests burning before seed planting and trees as hedgerows. Before the planting season, I could see the leafless remnants of burnt trees still standing. READ MORE>>>

What works

  1. Attention-grabbing opening:
    The author immediately grabs your attention by placing them in the midst of the scene and vividly conveying what the author saw.
  2. Vivid, visual opening:
    You can almost smell the burnt trees and see the ranches and farms thriving behind their protective forests.
  3. A clear theme that ties the essay together:
    The writer clearly states an interest in the clash between economic and environmental concerns throughout the essay. Discussion of coursework taken and how it influenced the author’s decision to pursue both master’s and PhD in Environmental Studies also flows through the essay.
  4. Solid structure:
    Thanks to the continued theme of the clash between economic and environmental concerns, this is a very easy essay to read. Mentions of different courses that piqued the writer’s interest also help to hold this essay together.
  5. Good use of transitions:
    Transitions help your reader move from one topic to the next as you connect the topic in the preceding paragraph to the topic in the next. They can consist of a few words or a phrase or simply the repetition of the topic by name as opposed to using a pronoun. 
    The writer used the terminology connecting economics and the environment at the end of the first paragraph, and uses the same words at the beginning of the second one.

Grad school essay example #2: The engineering student

A simple bridge truss was the first structure I ever analyzed. The simple combination of beams that could hold cars, trains, and trucks over long spans of water fascinated me. Having the tools to analyze the loads on the truss further increased my interest in structures. READ MORE>>>

What works

  1. Attention-grabbing opening:
    This writer immediately shared his fascination with bridge truss designs and makes the reader want to learn more about structural engineering.
  2. Consistent use of opening imagery:
    The writer begins his essay with the image of the first structure he ever analyzed – a simple bridge truss. This bridge truss becomes the basis for all of his future study of structural engineering and design. Toward the end of the essay, he states that design structure has fascinated him since he saw that first image of a bridge truss for his first engineering class.
  3. A clear theme that ties the essay together:
    The theme of structural design runs throughout the essay. It is mentioned right at the beginning of the essay, in following paragraphs and in the final paragraph as well. Toward the end of the essay, the writer discusses how a grad degree in engineering will help him reach both his short- and long-term goals. 
  4. Solid structure:
    Since the theme of structural design and engineering are so strong throughout the essay, it is easy to follow along as the writer talks about different classes he has taken, an internship he did, and even an experience as a student volunteer. 
  5. Good use of transitions:
    The author ends his first paragraph talking about the textbook for his first engineering class, and continues on this theme in the next paragraph. He then transitioned from classes he took to student volunteer research he participated in. When discussing what he plans to study in grad school, the same terminology is used again, joining the whole essay into one cohesive whole. 

Grad school essay example #3: The public health student

What if people lived healthier lives, practiced preventive medicine, and took precautions against illness and disease? My days in the physical therapy department often made me think about the prevention of injuries as well as the injuries themselves. I was already doubting my future career choice as a physical therapist. READ MORE>>>

What works

  1. Attention-grabbing opening:
    The author of this essay makes an early case for why he wants to leave the field of physical therapy and move to the public health arena. You can almost feel the writer’s frustration with physical therapy and their need to find a way to reach a broader population, provide primary care to them, while challenging and motivating the writer to improve.
  2. Consistent use of opening imagery:
    The idea of providing primary care to large populations and the benefits the population could get from this care are woven through the whole essay. Finding ways to improve the health of underprivileged populations is also found throughout the essay.
  3. A clear theme that ties the essay together:
    Provision of primary care to large communities is a theme that runs throughout the essay. The author’s work at a county health clinic cemented this idea and led to him choosing to pursue an education and career in public health.
  4. Solid structure:
    The theme of providing primary care to large underprivileged populations is a theme that ties this personal statement together.
  5. Good use of transitions:
    The words “public health” occur in every paragraph. The author ends the second paragraph talking about work in the field, and begins the next paragraph by mentioning field experience. This makes it easy to follow the flow of the essay.

Grad school essay example #4: The physician assistant student

I was nine years old and in the middle of Mrs. Russell’s third grade class when my stomach began to itch uncontrollably. I remember thinking to myself, “Did I get bitten by a bug?” Completely distracted by the incessant itching, I asked Mrs. Russell if I could go to the nurse’s office. When the nurse lifted my shirt, I saw the biggest “bug bites” I had ever seen covering the majority of my stomach. READ MORE>>>

What works

Note: The character limit for the CASPA PS is 5,000 characters with spaces. You need to keep this limit in mind as you write your personal statement.

  1. Attention-grabbing opening and consistent use of opening imagery:
    The writer of this essay immediately grabs the reader’s attention by making them feel her fear and frustration of having an undiagnosed medical condition. You can also feel her relief when she is finally diagnosed – and treated – by a PA.
  2. Vivid, visual opening and consistent use of opening imagery:
    Your heart beats a little faster as you read how a 9-year-old girl’s medical condition couldn’t be diagnosed until a visit with a PA who helped her discover her passion. She continues to illustrate her love of all things medical throughout the essay.
  3. A clear theme that ties the essay together:
    Her essay has a clear theme – her interest in medicine and healthcare, and her connection with PAs. This theme is touched upon in every paragraph of her personal statement. Whether discussing her love of learning or the skills learned through sports, the ultimate goal of becoming a PA comes through. 
  4. Solid structure:
    The author’s themes of love of learning and medicine, and the desire to become a PA to help others flow through this essay. They make it cohesive, readable, and interesting. 
  5. Good use of transition:
    The writer shows how her interest in being a PA grows throughout her life through a series of events – her illness, attending a youth leadership forum where she first saw infected human organs, and finally her mother’s own illness and the care given by the same PA who diagnosed the author at the age of 9. The imagery of the “itchy little” girl from the first paragraph appears again in the last paragraph, pulling the entire personal statement together.

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