Personal Statements for Further Study

A personal statement is your chance to explain your motivation for applying and why you are a great candidate for the course..

Guidelines given vary from the simple “Provide evidence in support of your application” to the more common “Tell us why you are interested in the course to which you have applied. Describe your academic interests and reasons for applying to XXX”. For some courses there may be a much more prescriptive and structured approach, requiring you to write a series of shorter responses to specific questions relating to your motivation, experience and suitability for the course. You may also come across some institutions that ask you to reflect on how you might add to the diversity of a cohort should your application be successful.  

If you are applying to more than one university, each statement will need a different emphasis – do not use the same statement for all applications.  

In your statement, you should demonstrate:

  • Motivation, enthusiasm, and a clear understanding of why you are making the application to this particular course, and to this particular institution.
  • How your academic background and other experiences have shaped your decision to apply and how the course contributes to your plans for the future.
  • Evidence that you have the ability, experience, skills and motivation to successfully contribute to the course, and to complete it.

Structure and Content

The opening paragraph sets the framework for the rest of the statement, think of it as your ‘trailer’. This is where you can grab the reader’s attention or lose it… You might start with a powerful anecdote, a brief narrative of your initial inspiration, or a thought-provoking statement linked to your academic interests.

Within the main body of the essay you should aim to cover:

Why you want to study this topic or field

Is it a natural extension of your current interests? How did you become interested in this area? Why does it continue to fascinate you? What have you done within your degree or outside of your study to fuel this interest? Would the course provide a step towards a longer-term goal?

Why you have chosen this specific course and institution

Are there particular options or modules that interest you? Is there particular expertise in that department? Has access to specific resources such as museum collections, libraries or laboratory equipment been a factor? Has the reputation (through recommendations or other means) of the course inspired you? Are you attracted by opportunities for collaboration or work placements? Have you attended any Open Days or other visits?

How your experience equips you for the course

Consider the subjects you studied at undergraduate level; your relevant skills (technical, language, computing, research methods); independent study or research; prior (relevant) experience; academic awards and other achievements. The focus here is likely to be on your academic suitability for the course, but if you have relevant work experience or extra-curricular activities that provide further evidence of your interest or ability then include them too. Your non-academic achievements might also provide evidence of project management, resilience, effective communication and so on.

Where the course might lead you

You don’t need to have a detailed career plan, but you do need to show how this course fits in with your general aspirations. Are you intending to continue on to a PhD? Do you have a broad interest in contributing to a particular issue or field, e.g. social enterprise, public policy, human rights, sustainability? Or do you have a more specific goal in mind? How will your chosen course help you to achieve your goals?

Closing paragraph

Use your closing paragraph to summarise your application, return to any themes you introduced at the beginning, and to restate your enthusiasm for the course.

Practical Advice

  • Writing effective personal statements takes time. Expect to go through several drafts and ask tutors, peers, careers advisers and others to review your statement before you submit it.
  • Good English, grammar and spelling are essential. Avoid jargon and make sure it can be understood by non-experts. 
  • Keep the tone positive, fresh and lively in order to convey enthusiasm and make yourself stand out, but remember that this is a document introducing you in a professional capacity.
  • It’s a good idea to mention relevant individuals whose work has truly inspired you, but avoid name-dropping for the sake of it, and excessive and evidence-free flattery of the institution or the course.
  • If you refer to any papers or books then reference these correctly in a bibliography at the end of the statement.
  • Pay attention to any word limits. If none are stated then aim for no more than two sides of A4 or 1000-1500 words.
  • It is usually possible to apply for multiple courses at a single institution. Many (including Oxford) will require you to complete a separate application form for each course that you wish to apply for.

Research Proposals

For many PhD and some research Masters applications the personal statement is often accompanied by a research proposal – a document that sets out your research interests and proposed area of study. The detail required in this section varies hugely for different disciplines. For some science subjects it may simply be a list, in order of preference, of the named PhD projects you wish to be considered for. However, for most areas – and especially in the arts, humanities and social sciences – you will need to devote a considerable amount of time to developing your ideas, discussing them with potential supervisors and writing a proposal. Your academic tutors should be able to give you some guidance on writing research proposals, and there is some useful advice from  Vitae  and from  Find a PhD .

Admission Essays for US Graduate Schools

The information in this handout applies also to applications to American universities. However, there are subtle differences in the style and approach to essays aimed at the US context. A statement written for the US is likely to feel more personal; think of it as your academic biography – setting out your inspiration for the academic path you have followed in the past, the present and into the future. The Careers Service runs a workshop on US applications early each Michaelmas Term. The Fulbright Educational Advisory Service  also publishes guidelines on completing US applications. US university career services often provide useful advice on writing graduate school admissions essays. See for example: MIT graduate school essay advice , UC Berkeley advice on writing graduate admissions statements , UNC application essay advice and Yale advice on writing personal statements for graduate school.

Teacher Training Applications

The personal statement for postgraduate teacher training is the key part of your application. The question is quite prescriptive, and your focus should be on your motivation for becoming a teacher: particularly how your teaching and other experiences have contributed. Ideally you should also set out how these have helped you to understand the role, and the sort of teacher you aspire to be. The Careers Service runs a workshop on careers in teaching each Michaelmas Term, which includes advice about the application process. For more information, see the Careers Service information on Teaching in Schools .

Graduate Entry Medicine

Applications to graduate entry medicine courses are submitted via UCAS and include a personal statement. Much of the advice in this document also applies to medicine applications, but you are likely to need to place considerable emphasis on the relevant work experience you have gained prior to your application.

See Careers Service's information on Medicine as a Second Degree  for further information.

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Oxford Personal Statement Examples: Top 4

Oxford Personal Statement Examples

If you’re looking to craft the perfect personal statement, reading over some Oxford personal statement examples will be the best way to start. It’s one thing to read college essay tips or instructions on how to write the perfect personal statement, but another entirely to see an example of how it’s done.

How to start a college essay can be tricky, but we have you covered! In this article, we have Oxford personal statement examples for your edification so that you can write your own best work.

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Article Contents 12 min read

Oxford personal statement examples, example no.1.

We are made of stories. History itself is the story we tell ourselves about who we are, and our oldest stories are still with us. Gilgamesh would never have found his immortality but through his story being told over and over again. Scrooge is visited by three ghosts every year for some people, and no matter how many times we hear about his conversion from miser to “…as good a man as the good old city knew…” we have our hearts warmed, reminding ourselves of the importance of human comfort and generosity. I have come to my interest in the classics through my interest in the stories we tell that make us who we are.

My personal reading list always exceeds my school’s reading list. When I was a boy, I was gripped by the stories of heroes like Perseus and Hercules. As I grew, I sought further stories and came across the epic poems. Over the years, I have found many people who share my enjoyment of these tales, but often they do not truly know them. One of my perpetual fascinations with classics is how these stories change, or are perceived, in the public consciousness.

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For example, many people know of the Labours of Hercules – or Herakles, as the Greeks said – but they rarely know why he was tasked with these Labours: he killed his children. We often make dark aspects of old stories into children’s stories. We see this with modern cartoon versions of far grimmer fairy tales. I believe that this has done our world a disservice. Instead of confronting unpleasant truths, we hide them. History is often whitewashed along with the stories to make it palatable.

My studies of the classics have led me to begin a work on Hercules – investigating how his story has been told and retold. I am also examining how the story has changed over the years, why it has changed and how retelling this story in gentler ways has paralleled pop culture dumbing down stories and ignoring unpleasant truths.

“It’s just a frog,” I thought, but no matter how I tried to convince myself of that fact, I didn’t find it any easier to dissect. I was disappointed in myself because I thought that a scientist should be dispassionate, logical, and capable of dealing with any sentimental subject in an objective fashion. Yet there was the frog, my scalpel poised dramatically above its little, amphibian torso. I was almost paralysed with sympathy, and I began to fear that I would never be a scientist.

When I was young, I would wander the woods, sketching plants and animals before looking them up at home. I am happiest when I am learning something new – even if it means unlearning a truth I “knew” the day before. I had loved labs and experiments, but I had hit the wall of dissection. Could I take these creatures apart? I love learning about them, but how could I slice them open?

I told my friend Jeremiah that I wasn’t going to dissect the bullfrog. I would drop the course and do something else with my life. “I’ll help,” he said, “Come on.” With his support and encouragement, I made the first cut and couldn’t believe what I saw; I was entranced by the intricacy of the frog. Being able to see and understand nature from an insider’s perspective, so to speak, was no longer “gross,” and my curiosity finally kicked in.

As I continued in biology, through lab experiments, dissections and investigations, I found myself reversing my position on the mentality of the scientist. It is not that we must be dispassionate, but that we must intimately feel a connection with the natural world. We are a part of this world – as perfectly slotted into our evolutionary position as any other creature. More excited than ever, I joined a biology club in our city where I was surrounded by biologists of all ages – amateur and professional – and I grew immensely. I was even awarded 1 st place in a biology Olympiad.

I believe that a truly successful scientist is one who finds harmony in the natural world, not one who exploits it, and I have had several conversations with my laboratory instructor on these points. He agreed with me, and we have been working on a rubric to create a more nature-friendly approach to the science curriculum at our school. He was already quite nature-conscious, but we both agree that we could be doing more to minimise our ecological footprints.

My dream job is one that helps to balance human interaction with nature on a global scale, to fight climate change and ensure the survival of all natural species. I hope to study the natural sciences at Oxford to bring this about. I believe that my journey is one of lifelong learning, a concept stressed at your school. I am also interested in your research in sustainable urban development. I think that co-existing with nature is one of the all-important issues for humanity and for an aspiring biologist. I want to contribute to a world where, even if we dissect frogs, we do so with a sense of responsibility, not callous indifference.

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Example No.3

I was ten minutes into a well-structured argument as to why I was not argumentative before I realised the irony of my words. I shut my mouth, red-faced and laughing with the rest of my family. I come from a family of debaters. Not that being a debater is the only thing that makes me want to study history and politics at your institution. Politicians are more than just arguers, but my temperament is well-suited to challenging ideas and wrestling with those ideas in the public sphere.

I want to make a difference on a national level in the political arena, serving the public as a politician. I joined the debate club to learn how to perform well in front of an audience, how to test my ideas and most importantly, how to lose. I am proud of my track record, wins and losses. Losses can be a strength. My first debate was, “Be it therefore resolved that there is an obesity problem in this country.” I was assigned the “pro” angle, and I was so sure that I could win by appealing to statistical realities. However, I lost. My opponent had sharper arguments and convinced the audience that “problem” implied an inherent morality issue with obesity. I had no counterargument.

From that loss, I learned how to use language better, to anticipate counterarguments and to know my opponent’s position better than my own. Every loss is an opportunity to grow, and I love that I have been pitted against fierce opponents who make me earn every point. I would rather achieve fewer victories against a skilled debater than gain many victories against those who are ill-prepared. I also rarely lose on the same subject twice.

This is relevant to my political philosophy, which is that I believe politicians should be willing to change their opinions, even on important issues. If nobody changed their minds, we would all be pig-headed fools. I want the best information, and if that changes my mind, so be it. We need more changed minds and evidence-based policies coming from politicians who value truth and accuracy, as well as the ethics to provide morally defensible positions.

Thanks to my debate club experience, I was able to campaign successfully for student body president, a position I held for two years. I took this responsibility seriously, even if not every peer or authority figure felt the same way. During my time in student government, my proudest accomplishment was helping create a new scholarship programme to fund the university studies and housing of one student. I believe that politicians should fight for changes that will benefit people, not just institutions, so this scholarship was a particularly exciting project for me to work on.

Outside of political ambitions, my favourite thing to do is to go to museums and art galleries. I take tremendous pleasure in discovering who we were and are and being able to compare the two. I hope to bring my historical knowledge and understanding to my career in politics.

Whether I am debating at family dinner or quietly, reverently studying in a museum, my greatest joy would be to help people build the society that they want to see.

Example No.4

When the first atomic bombs were detonated, Oppenheimer famously stated, “I am become death, destroyer of worlds,” characterising the transcendent regret he felt. Of course, Oppenheimer was himself quoting from the Bhagavad Gita. When I think of Oppenheimer’s sorrow, I think of the importance philosophy has for a person navigating hard sciences, like mathematics.

For many people, philosophy and mathematics – what I hope to study at Oxford – are divorced from one another, if not opposites. One, resulting from the musings of a curious mind, is seen as almost useless in practical terms. The other is seen as cold, scientific truth in written form. But I believe they are linked. I loved reading Oxford’s published paper, “Influencing HIV/AIDS Policy in India Through Mathematical Modelling.” Our math knowledge, and the application thereof, can directly affect the world around us, improving it for all.

In my final year of high school, I wanted to write about the impact that mathematics has on the world. I wrote a paper on black holes. I interviewed a mathematician named Peter Richards who was working at a physics lab studying the phenomenon. Mr. Richards told me how the gravity of black holes creates event horizons, shaping space around them, but that scientists are investigating whether gravity is influenced by light. This cosmological-level chicken-or-egg question became the basis of my paper, which was about how we think about the universe and our place in it. Mathematics might one day answer who we are and why we are here. This paper won 1 st place in an essay competition and secured me a small scholarship.

Math is the language of the universe. I see it everywhere: in nature’s patterns and in the music I play. I have been learning to play flutes – everything from woodwinds to concert flutes to world music instruments like ocarinas. As my study of math deepens, I become more immersed in exploring the range of the instrument, which, in turn, transforms my music. Math reshapes the world around us.

This study of the interplay between mathematics and philosophy led me to study the mathematics of global populations, which I believe will soon become imperative research on how we can maintain a sustainable eco-system. I attended a recent event for mathematicians studying global trends, where I interviewed several prominent mathematicians in the field for the school paper. I got to ask these important persons about their thoughts on the responsibility mathematicians have regarding humanity and the care needed to help our species. A surprising number – two out of the five I spoke with – had given little or no thought to the idea of blending philosophy and mathematics. I was shocked at this mathematical proof that even people in the field did not give much thought to this.

I hope to combat this in my own life and studies, encouraging mathematicians to increase their conscientious use of their skills to better humanity in a direct way, as well as to be more conscious of their responsibilities in the world today.

Oxford recommends that you follow the UCAS advice on personal statements when writing your own. It is well worth taking your time drafting your personal statement because the admissions committee at Oxford reads each one several times. They are really interested in learning about anything academic because they are curious about your potential in your field of study. This implies that they are interested in both what you have done and are doing in school as well as anything you have done outside of the classroom that is related to the subject you have chosen to study. More than being the best extracurriculars for college , Oxford refers to these activities as super-curriculars . Super-curriculars can be anything “you’ve read, listened to, watched or visited” that relates to your academic interests, unlike extracurriculars.

About 80% of your personal statement should discuss your academic interests and super-curriculars. The recommended structure is as follows:

  • Opening paragraph explaining why you want to pursue the programme
  • 3 or 4 paragraphs analysing your academic and super-curricular activities
  • Brief closing paragraph about your extracurricular interests, with a focus on transferable skills and career plans/future aspirations

To ensure that your personal statement applies specifically to the University of Oxford, first look at the school’s mission, vision statement and core values. Aligning your essay with these values will help prove that Oxford is the perfect fit for you, which is your main goal. This is the first step in how to write a college essay for this school.

You may also want to reference other important aspects of Oxford. Do they have research in the area you want to work in? Do they have a professor you cannot wait to study with? Do they have the curriculum set up in a way that best suits you as a student and your future goals? You need to show not only how you fit with Oxford, but also how the school will propel you forward in a way that no other school could.

Oxford’s Mission Statement

“We inspire people locally, nationally and globally by extending access to Oxford’s world-class teaching and resources through flexible and inclusive opportunities for study and research.”

Oxford’s Vision Statement

“To be a global centre of excellence for lifelong learning. Courses will be underpinned by the best teaching, research and support for learning to meet the needs of diverse, ambitious and intellectually curious students. Staff and students will work together within and beyond Oxford to foster a vibrant learning community attentive to the importance of promoting sustainability and social justice.”

Oxford’s Values

Finally, note that all Oxford personal statements have a character cap of 4,000, including spaces, and must be no longer than 47 lines.

Essay Writing Tips

Here are some general pieces of advice to keep in mind while working through your college essay review process. These tips will apply to your Oxford essays, but they will also be beneficial for any essays. Essays follow a basic structure and have a fundamental goal that is shared among them, even when specifics differ. So, you could be writing supplemental college essays , college diversity essays , or Harvard medical school secondary essays , but regardless of the type of essay or school, these tips will still apply.

The Main Objective

All essays are, directly or indirectly, “ why this college” essays . The admissions committee is looking for students who fit their institution and are excited about attending. Whatever your college essay topics are, you’re always answering that fundamental question.

Start Strong

College essay introductions are hard in and of themselves. Conquering the introduction means beating the blank page. Start with the best “"hook” sentence you can find. That means you need an attention-grabbing opener that compels the reader to continue.

Once you’re through the introduction, you must follow through with two or three paragraphs about your accomplishments or criteria the school expect to hear about – in Oxford’s case, those are your academics and super-curriculars.

Each story should answer the fundamental question: “Why is this person perfect for this school?"

Wrap it up with a conclusion that summarises your main points and, if possible, connects to the introduction like a loop.

Up to 4,000 characters, which includes spaces.

You don’t want to go so short you can’t say anything of substance. Brevity is the soul of wit, however, so don’t worry about having a personal statement that is “only” 300–400 words long. Don’t pad out your statement; say what you need to and no more.

Your personal statement shows your unique abilities and personality and why you are ideally suited for the institution and programme to which you are applying. Showcase qualities like perseverance, leadership, teamwork, curiosity, creativity, logic and personal growth.

Your main focus will be on academics and super-curricular activities.

Negative people don’t come off well, so dwelling on problems, whining, or badmouthing people is never a good idea.

Formal, standard essay format is perfect: hook sentence, introduction, main body – which expresses one or two main ideas – and a conclusion that comes full-circle, ideally connecting to the introduction. You can use the first person, since this is a personal essay.

Always follow the rule of “show, don’t tell” to demonstrate your qualities and abilities.

Free-associate for a while. Give yourself one or two minutes to write on the programme you want to take at Oxford and just free-associate. By the end, your passion for the subject will have won out and given you a good list of ideas to explore.

Your essay gets cut off. Never exceed the limit. So, in practical terms, if you exceed the character limit, or 47 lines, part of your personal statement will be missing.

Not formally, no, but it is being evaluated, so make sure you edit properly and go over spelling and grammar with a fine-tooth comb.

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How to write a brilliant personal statement

Your personal statement satisfies a number of checkboxes for Admissions Tutors. It’s the first opportunity to give them the chance to meet the real you. You can demonstrate a passion to study your intended subject, show what you are capable of bringing to the university and faculty and prove why you are the applicant that should be offered a place.

As you only have a limited space to express yourself – just 4,000 characters or 47 lines in the UCAS box (whichever limit you reach first) which is equivalent to just over a full typed page of A4 – you need to make every included sentence count. It’s important to remember you only get to write one personal statement that will be sent to all your over university choices. Your statement needs to be tailored as much as you can to each of the courses you are applying to as you don’t want tutors to doubt your commitment to their university and course. 

There is one guarantee when writing a personal statement – you won’t get a quality, polished personal statement on your first attempt. In fact, it often takes many drafts, lots of editing and plenty of late-night spurs of inspiration to get a strong personal statement that encourages offers from your preferred universities. To assist you in getting started, we’ve gathered together the following useful tips that will lead you in the right direction and help you to get to grips with how to write a great personal statement for university. 

What should you include?

It’s called a personal statement but that doesn’t mean Admissions Tutors want a complete timeline of your life from childhood. They want to see the best side of your academic self, your passion for the course and subject you are applying to and an overview of your academic achievements that are relevant to your subject. In your personal statement, it’s beneficial to include;

  • Any subject-related work experience you have completed or intend to carry out
  • Any courses or lectures you have attended that advanced your knowledge
  • Demonstrations of your interest extending beyond the classroom environment
  • A relevant list of book, articles and essays you have read

Try to avoid simply listing the things you have done and instead, try to show how your reading and experiences have expanded your knowledge and developed your interests and understanding of your chosen subject. Relevant extra-curricular activities and achievements should also get a mention however, how much space you dedicate to this section is dependent on the university you are applying to. For students applying to Oxford, Cambridge or Imperial universities, extra-curricular activities should be kept to a footnote mention with a greater focus on your academic achievements. Students that are applying to universities such as Loughborough will need to include their extra-curricular achievements in more detail. These universities look at what you can bring to the faculty as a whole and supporting extra-curricular activities can show you will be a good fit. 

How do you start?

Starting your personal statement can be done in a million ways and is often the part that many students get stuck on. There is no correct way to start your statement off, some applicants choose to begin with a quote that is relevant to their interests while others open with an anecdote that provides insight into where their curiosity for the subject has come from. 

How you open will set the tone for the rest of your personal statement, including establishing your enthusiasm and interest in your subjects and providing the Admissions Tutor with an introduction to your personality. Never use someone else’s words or pretend to be someone else in your personal statement, the Admissions Tutors will quickly see through this and with only a short space to express your true academic self, you don’t want to waste space on other’s content. We recommend speaking as though you were speaking to your headteacher, in a clear, mature tone that retains a sense of who you are as an individual. 

How do you finish?

Finishing your personal statement can be as hard as finding the right words for your introduction. The final paragraph doesn’t have to be long or expansive, but simply enough to round off your statement and summarise your interest and dedication to your chosen subject. This part may need some reworking after 4,000 characters of blowing your own trumpet so get plenty of feedback to avoid getting carried away and coming across too arrogant or self-assured in your outro!

Is there anything to avoid?

Your personal statement is submitted alongside your UCAS form, so there is no need to rehash or revisit certain details such as your A-Levels or GCSE grades. Avoid mentioning anything that is readily available to the Admissions Tutors and instead, use the space to focus on selling your own subject interest and dedication. 

Aim to remain positive in your personal statement as you are selling your achievements and showing off why you are going to be a good choice for the university, so you should avoid using this space to explain potential disagreements that influenced your grade or reasons behind extended periods of leave. 

If there is further information that you feel is beneficial for the Admissions Tutors to know, you should talk to your teacher about including a note in the reference section of your UCAS form. Admission Tutors prefer to read this from the teacher’s point of view and it ensures you can use your personal statement space for the things that matter – the achievements, interests and eagerness that universities are looking for. 

Final advice

After potentially spending days, weeks and even months drafting, editing and reworking your personal statement, proof-reading may not seem like an exciting activity but it is absolutely essential. Typos can and do regularly change our opinion of a piece and its author, even if it is something minor in an otherwise engaging and informative article, so it’s key to ensure your personal statement is without grammatical flaws. 

Admission Tutors are likely to be strict on accuracy and grammar and to ensure your personal statement ticks the right boxes. We recommend asking your teachers, friends and parents to read over and proof-read your personal statement a few times. A further tip we can offer is to begin with the last sentence and work your way through your personal statement backwards, sentence by sentence. This ensures you can focus on the individual sentence and its accuracy and grammar, rather than getting distracted by the full statement. 

From all of us at Oxbridge Applications, we wish you the best of luck with your personal statement. It can be tricky, but look at it as your first challenge to university life and use this opportunity to talk about your best and most interesting subject – you!

Writing a personal statement for Oxford and Cambridge? We explore some of the frequently asked questions about Oxbridge personal statements in our  12 Personal Statement FAQs and answers  article.

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Mid-summer application planning guide, completing your my cambridge application guide, summer reading list.

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  • Aug 12, 2018

How to write an Oxford personal statement

Make sure your personal statement conveys your interest in the subject – write down talks you’ve been to (and what they made you think), open days you’ve attended (and what you took away from them), and maybe even books you’ve read (and whether or not you agree with the author and why). Are you seeing a common thread? It’s less about what you’ve done and more about what you make of it! It’s best to only mention one book or one talk, but really go in to some critical analysis, rather than to just write a list of seven without any additional commentary.

Any extra-curricular activities should be ‘super-curricular’, i.e. related to your degree: for Maths, maybe the Maths Olympiad, for Science, maybe a Science EPQ or that time you entered a Lego competition (totally relevant to Engineering!). For Law, I talked about teaching and debating, and the self-discipline involved in teaching myself a language as an A Level. You can honestly make anything work – try to make yourself stand out a little by having something people don’t normally have! But don’t worry about not having twenty different hobbies – you don’t have space to mention more than one or two, and you won’t really be asked about your personal life at interview.

What I would reiterate, above all, is to not stress over the personal statement. If you’ve spelt everything correctly and you’ve got all your proof that you’re genuinely and voluntarily interested in your subject outside of school then you’re doing it right! And, to the year 12s going in to year 13 – for the love of all that’s holy, take a few weeks off this summer. Breathe. Let yourself detach from the intimidating university admissions process and the pressure of A Levels for a bit, because that will let you be so much more engaged when you jump back in.

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Oxford University Personal Statements

We hope our collection of oxford university personal statements provides inspiration for writing your own. please do not plagiarise them in any way, or ucas will penalise your application. our  personal statement editing & review services  are availble if you feel you need a little extra help..

History Personal Statement Example 3 Recently, I found out that my grandma was gambled into slavery for seven years. She escaped her prison and made her way back to Hong Kong, 300 miles south. I was amazed at how courageous she was. This personal discovery led me to read Jung Chang's 'Wild Swans' which made me both proud and ashamed of my heritage...

Computer Science Personal Statement Example 4 I find it amazing to watch as the digital revolution sculpts society at a rate that has never before been seen; there is so much to still be discovered. Quantum computing is a topic that particularly interests me, stemming from my studies and keen interest in physics...

Economics and PPE Personal Statement Example My aspiration to study economics at both advanced and degree level has stemmed from my lasting interest in current affairs and world development. These issues require an application of economics in real-life situations and can be related to many diverse subjects such as politics, philosophy and psychology...

English Literature Personal Statement Example 1 When I saw Gatz, John Collin's eight hour interpretation of The Great Gatsby, I noticed that Fitzgerald changes the colour of Daisy's hair every time he describes it. It is "like a dash of blue paint", "yellowy" like her daughters and then "dark, shining"...

Geography Personal Statement Example 2 In a dynamic world, the study of geography is increasingly important. The diversity of the subject and the interaction between the physical environment and human population is becoming even more evident with climate change and globalisation influencing our everyday lives...

Psychology Personal Statement Example 11 “If she’s smart she will study Medicine.” This is an unwritten rule in my culture - all Nigerian parents want their children to become doctors. What becomes of the aspiring psychologist in the family? I met a junior doctor, at an educational conference, who wanted to specialise in psychiatry...

History Personal Statement Example 13 Until I began my A-levels last September, I had never been to school or followed a formal syllabus. My parents homeschooled me. They guided, encouraged, and fed my interests with books, documentaries and discussions...

Natural and Biological Sciences Personal Statement Example Experiencing first-hand life as a human in the natural world, I have the authority to confirm that regardless of previous knowledge, unexplained phenomena still exist. As a scientist, I adore observing the unknown, analysing the known and making decisions accordingly...

English Personal Statement Example 22 What I enjoy above all else in a piece of literature is the feeling that it has brought about change, either in me or in some wider context. Literature which offers the opportunity for an adapted way of living or thinking, however slight, is I think a thing to be kept and treasured in our intellects...

English Literature and Creative Writing Personal Statement Example 1 I once aspired to be a visual artist, a photographer or painter. However, I later discovered the unique ability of poetry and the written word to maintain its power and resonance in a world saturated with images and messages...

Computer Science Personal Statement Example 45 Advances in computer and information technology over the past few decades have brought about revolution in science, medicine, education, business, and entertainment. I wish to be part of the future revolution and that is why I want to study computer science...

English Literature Personal Statement Example 16 I believe that to read English is to read the human being itself: after all, we are all writers. Even in the very act of choosing our words - thinking them, speaking them, physically writing them down - we create something meaningful...

Human Sciences Personal Statement Example Perhaps what makes me different from other University applicants is that I have ambition to understand multidimensional human life. It is not the appeal of a top qualification or the zesty student lifestyle that attracts me to this course; but it is the long-term knowledge and answers to interdisciplinary human problems, and the enigmas that I will commit a lifetime investigating with perhaps no solution, that inspires me to apply...

Engineering Personal Statement Example 19 Physics is that branch of science without which science is just like a beautiful lamp with no light. For centuries, mathematicians and physicists have made plenty of scientific contributions thus helping the world make a better place to live...

History (Ancient and Modern) Personal Statement Example 1 It is those things we don’t yet know or understand that make history a fascinating, intellectual puzzle. We know a remarkable amount about history and the development of society but new archaeological discoveries, the dedicated efforts of historians, translators and other academics and advancements in areas such as archaeometry mean that the body of historical information is still expanding...

Archaeology and Anthropology Personal Statement Example 2 As an immigrant living in Spain, I am constantly reminded of the importance social and cultural factors have on my daily life, the language I speak, and the difference between the relationships I maintain with people from my own country and those I encounter here on a daily basis...

Computer Science Personal Statement Example 49 My views about computing changed considerably when I heard about Linux. In the late nineties it was a newer operating system and tasks like installing and configuring were considered to be quite challenging in India...

Law Personal Statement Example 70 Law is ever changing, whether parliament is passing new legislation, existing legislation is being rewritten or the courts are interpreting laws in different ways. In the case of Anthony Bland the distinguishing of earlier precedents was vital...

History and English Personal Statement Example Studying history and English concurrently has appealed to me ever since I recognised the inseparability of the two disciplines closest to my heart. Personally, I believe that the literary style of a piece of writing is as important as scholarly research and I try to make my essays as lively as possible whilst still grounded in solid historical or literary method, dulce et utile, following the example of writers such as Richard J Evans...

Economics and Management Personal Statement Example 2 My interest in Economics goes beyond an appreciation of statistics and profit margins. In my mind, economics represents the relationship between people and their money – a relationship that dates back to the history of mankind...

German Personal Statement Example 7 The study of language has always been appealing and is the focus of much of my time and energy, but the study of the German language is what mesmerises me most. Before understanding German I was first intrigued by its sound, and as I began to learn it, I became fascinated by its complexity...

Economics Personal Statement Example 30 The ever-changing nature of the human science intrigues me. Newton’s laws of motion will never change, from wherever ‘the ball is dropped’. However, different strategies and policies have to be framed and implemented for each economic problem...

Mathematics & Computer Science Personal Statement Example I have found mathematics a fascinating subject since my early years. I enjoy it as it is challenging and logical. I am particularly interested in decision mathematics as it is a field that is directly related to real-life applications of mathematics and can be used to solve problems, such as finding the optimal solution for transporting materials from one place to another while minimising the cost...

Physics Personal Statement Example 15 I have always been intrigued by the world of physics. From everyday experiences to the most extreme boundaries of today's knowledge, I have always voraciously searched for answers to my questions. As I grew up, the elegance of mathematical demonstrations and of physical theorems fascinated me, and I have often dreamt of making contributions to the unification theory and of improving and simplifying the Navier-Stokes equations...

Electrical Engineering Personal Statement Example 2 The defining wonder of today’s age is electricity. In just two centuries, we have come from Faraday’s crude but prophetic experiments to devices just a square inch that can calculate in seconds what the most gifted of human minds might take days...

Medicine Personal Statement Example 70 The challenge of spending my working life immersed in the fascinating, ever-evolving world of the medical sciences, and the opportunity to use this knowledge to benefit others, has drawn me to seek a career in medicine...

Politics, Philosophy & Economics (PPE) Personal Statement Example 3 In this day and age virtually every aspect of our lives may be considered political. My passion to study Politics stems from this tenet and a belief that a comprehension of Politics is integral to understanding the current state of humanity...

Chemistry Personal Statement Example 18 Chemistry explores the properties of all matter and energy in our universe, which eventually leads to breakthroughs that benefit mankind, ranging from how to prevent food from decomposing to understanding what chemicals can help or harm you...

Philosophy Personal Statement Example (Mature Student) Since leaving education in 2006 I have always wanted to return; a great love of learning, desire for knowledge and natural curiosity throughout my life resulted in an ambition to teach. It was with this ambition in my heart that I took the plunge and returned to education, beginning my Access course last year with the intention of applying to study for a primary education degree...

Civil Engineering Personal Statement Example 17 My decision to study engineering stems from a desire to contribute to the evolution of society through a process that does not just define our environment but our era. My personal inspiration is the Segovia aqueduct, an 800m long, 30 metre high Roman marvel which still stands today...

Ancient and Modern History Personal Statement Example 1 What makes history engaging and interesting to me is its interdisciplinary nature and its ability to take you on a journey to the discovery of humanity's past. History has been a constant source of captivation for me, from studying the mythology of Ancient Greece in primary school through to the study of the Russian Revolution at A Level...

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Gre prep online guides and tips, 3 successful graduate school personal statement examples.

graduate school oxford personal statement

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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graduate school oxford personal statement

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

graduate school oxford personal statement

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  • Oxbridge Personal Statement Examples

Check out our successful Oxbridge personal statement examples below.

You will find a collection of standout personal statements that have helped students gain admission to the prestigious universities of Oxford and Cambridge .

These Oxbridge personal statement examples can serve as inspiration and guidance as you begin to write your own.

Whether you are applying to study law , natural science , economics , or any other course , these examples can help you showcase your unique strengths and experiences compellingly.

Recommended reading:

  • How to Apply to Cambridge University
  • How to Apply to Oxford University
  • The Best Cambridge Colleges
  • The Best Oxford Colleges

Successful Oxbridge Personal Statement Examples

Oxbridge personal statement example for economics course.

I volunteer at a local soup kitchen in Singapore, where I help distribute food and check on the well-being of lower-income families living in public housing.

One day, we encountered a family of five who were all seriously or terminally ill but were not receiving any government social support and had been relying mostly on NGOs for assistance.

This experience highlighted a social issue that concerns me – the lack of adequate social security support in Singapore despite its economic strength.

I believe more attention should be paid to addressing poverty and inequality.

I volunteered at the soup kitchen not only to help those in need but also to understand their struggles, as their interests are often overlooked.

As an economics student, I have learned how well-informed economic policy can improve lives by guiding social analysis.

This subject excites me and has motivated me to learn more through books, volunteering, and participating in economics-related competitions.

For example, I received a distinction award in the National Economics and Financial Management Quiz, which tests quick thinking, logical, and mathematical skills.

I also submitted an essay for the GlaxoSmithKline-Economic Development Board Book Prize on how Singapore can capitalize on Asian talent as a source of growth.

In addition, I participated in the local Math Olympiad received a bronze award, and completed a month-long internship at Centennial Asia Advisors, where my work contributed to the analysis of the Great Recession and the process of purchasing bonds to address the crisis.

This experience gave me a greater understanding of the importance of economic policy and its application.

I am also actively working to make a difference. Along with a group of friends and an NGO, I am committed to helping the village of Tom in Cambodia escape poverty by building schools and providing water filtration devices for villagers.

We also plan to support children with scholarships through fund-raisers. Personally helping Tom overcome poverty is one of my goals, and I believe that a strong understanding of economics will be essential in achieving this.

In addition to my academic and volunteer pursuits, I have also participated in various activities that have helped me grow as a person.

For example, I participated in The Odyssey of The Mind, a competition that challenges teams to think creatively through dramatic performances.

Our team won the World Championship after competing against teams from 60 other countries.

I am also an avid sailor, having represented my school as captain and Singapore in international competitions.

What I value most from these experiences are the relationships I formed with my teammates and the importance of dedication and perseverance in achieving success.

At school, I helped start the Young Diplomats’ Society, an interest group focused on Model United Nations Conferences (MUNC).

At Princeton University MUNC, I received an honourable mention, and at the Nanyang Technological University MUNC, I received the Dorothy Cheung Award for Best Delegate.

I also organized the annual iMUN@AC, serving as Chief of Staff in one year and Secretary General in another.

These MUNCs sparked my interest in global politics and led me to research the causes of the Rwandan Genocide for my IB Extended Essay, a 4000-word research paper that I thoroughly enjoyed and received an “A” grade for.

As John Maynard Keynes said, an economist is part philosopher, part statesman, and part mathematician.

I hope to study economics so that I can learn how to make changes on local, regional, and global levels.

Oxbridge Personal Statement Example For Law Course

I have always been drawn to the fields of law and justice. Even as a child, I was fascinated by the concepts of right and wrong and how they were applied in society.

My interest in history has also allowed me to learn about the evolution of the legal system over time.

During my school years, I took on leadership roles, including being a Senior Prefect and a member of the Student Council.

These experiences gave me a unique perspective on how a school operates and the importance of rules for both students and staff.

In my GCSE years, I had the opportunity to study Critical Thinking, which allowed me to hone my analytical and debate skills.

As part of this course, we visited Winchester Crown Court, giving us the chance to observe a court case in person and see the legal system in action.

This experience had a profound impact on me and further solidified my desire to pursue a career in law.

I also gained valuable insights into the legal profession through a two-week work placement at a local solicitor’s firm during the summer between school and college.

During this time, I was able to observe court proceedings and learn about the daily operations of a solicitor’s office.

In my free time, I enjoy reading classic fiction such as “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens and “North and South” by Elizabeth Gaskell.

I also enjoy cooking, travelling, and leading a healthy and active lifestyle.

I am confident that my personal skills, knowledge, attributes, and work ethic make me an excellent candidate for a law degree at your university.

I hope to use my time at university to develop the skills and qualifications necessary to have a successful career in law and to gain further experience in the courtroom.

Oxbridge Personal Statement Example For Natural Sciences Course

I was always fascinated by the natural world and spent hours exploring the forests and streams near my home.

This curiosity eventually led me to pursue a degree in biology at Oxford University, where I excelled academically and gained valuable experiences that have prepared me to take the next step in my education.

Throughout my undergraduate studies, I have taken a range of ecology courses and consistently earned high marks. In addition to my coursework, I have also been actively involved in several extracurricular activities that have allowed me to further explore my interests in biology and ecology.

For example, I have participated in research projects on the Forest Eco Programme and have worked as an intern at EcoBio Ltd where I gained valuable hands-on experience.

One of the things that set me apart from other applicants is my passion for biology and my dedication to making a positive impact in the world.

This drive was sparked by my achievements in school, which taught me the importance of the environment and motivated me to pursue a career in which I can make a difference.

I am excited to apply to the biology course at Oxford University because of its reputation for excellence and its commitment to providing students with a world-class education.

I believe that the University of Oxford will provide me with the knowledge and skills I need to achieve my goals and make a meaningful contribution to my field.

I am confident that my strong academic and extracurricular background, along with my passion and dedication, make me a strong fit for the course.

I am eager to join the vibrant intellectual community at Oxford and to continue pursuing my goals in biology.

Oxbridge Personal Statement Tips 

Focus on the following suggestions to write a successful personal statement for Oxbridge :

  • Start by thinking about your goals and why you want to pursue them at Oxbridge. What sparked your interest in your field of study, and how have your experiences prepared you to pursue it at a top university?
  • Reflect on your achievements and experiences. What have you accomplished that demonstrates your potential to succeed at Oxbridge? This could include academic achievements, extracurricular activities, internships, or other experiences.
  • Consider what makes you unique. What sets you apart from other applicants and makes you a strong fit for the program you’re applying to?
  • Write in a clear and concise manner, using concrete examples to illustrate your points. Avoid using overly complex language or jargon, and be sure to proofread for spelling and grammar errors.
  • Edit and proofread your personal statement carefully. It’s important to take the time to polish your statement and make sure it’s the best it can be.

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University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division

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  • Medicine: How to Apply

Medicine: Anatomy of a Personal Statement

Download this page as a pdf document

Below is a personal statement from a recent applicant for A100 Medicine at Oxford. It is not perfect and it may not be suited to every medical school. There is no single template for success in terms of an application to Oxford. Other styles can be equally effective: we encourage individuality and diversity in our students. This statement is however a good example for an Oxford application because it helps us see that the applicant is attempting to match our selection criteria .

An applicant's personal statement is likely to be discussed by tutors during interview.

A well-written statement will not in isolation gain you an interview or a place. It forms one part of an application from a gifted applicant that can be considered alongside other information - academic record, BMAT score, school reference, interview performance - in the selection process at Oxford.

Statement & comments

Choosing to study medicine is not a decision I have taken lightly. It isn't a career I have wanted to do since a particularly young age, nor did a life changing event prompt my choice. I have thought very long and hard before deciding to apply.

At first glance, this might seem like a down-beat opening paragraph. Although you may think that an arresting opening statement will impress, admissions tutors may be sceptical of exaggerated descriptions of a revelatory moment or lifelong desire to become a doctor. This introduction shows honesty and a degree of introspection. Throughout the statement, the applicant works hard to show that they have a realistic view of medicine. You won't prove that you have the motivation for medicine by simply saying that you do: it is what you have done to inform yourself about the career - and the views that you have formed - that will convince us that you really know what being a doctor is like and that this is what you want to do.

Various periods of work experience have taught me much about the career. A local hospital placement gave me the opportunity to visit A&E, Radiology and Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

You won't prove that you have the motivation for medicine by simply saying that you do.

Whilst fleeting, these visits to the departments highlighted the variety and diversity of the fascinating specialities medicine encompasses. A placement shadowing a clinic staff was hugely informative regarding daily life as a doctor. During the day I sat in on consultations ranging from routine post natal checkups to discussions of treatment for young people with diabetes and overactive thyroid glands.

This student describes their experiences of healthcare that have helped them decide that they want to study and practise medicine. We understand that opportunities to obtain experience vary, so you won't be judged on what you've done: we want to know what you learned from doing it. The description of the placements here isn't over-exaggerated, and the applicant takes care to explain what they have seen and done and the insight each opportunity afforded them. The relatively detailed account of the infant's check-up conveys the impression of engagement during the placement and suggests an intellectual curiosity to understand the infant's condition and its treatment. The applicant also takes care to point out an example of the importance of good communication skills and argues how their sales position has helped them develop such skills.

Throughout my time there the doctor's genuine interest in his cases and unfaltering motivation highlighted to me the privilege of having such a stimulating profession. This, together with the ever advancing nature of a career in medicine, was brought to the fore by an infant who was having a check up as a result of her being put on an ECMO machine after her birth with Meconium Aspiration Syndrome. The ease with which the doctor broached and dealt with sensitive subject matter also emphasised the importance of a warm, approachable manner and an ability to communicate to a person on their level of understanding. I believe I have honed these skills and gained invaluable experience of the eccentricities of the general public myself in my job as a salesperson.

It is important to convey an impression of engagement and intellectual curiosity when talking about any work experience/placement/voluntary work.

Since February of this year I have volunteered in a care home for a couple of hours each week. I assist with serving meals to the residents as well as feeding one of the more infirm ladies. My time there has brought to my attention the more unpleasant side of medicine and has proved by far the most useful work experience I have had; preparing me for the stark realities of physical ageing and senility. In spite of this, I genuinely enjoy my time there; giving residents, some of whom go months without visitors, 10 minutes of my time to chat can be very rewarding in the obvious enjoyment they get from it. The experience has shown me very clearly the importance of caring for the emotional as well as the physical needs of patients.

This paragraph reaffirms the applicant's motivation for medicine. They admit that working in a nursing home is not glamorous but explain how rewarding it has been. There is evidence of analytical skills here and there is no doubt that the applicant has become well-informed about the realities of healthcare. Empathy comes across as well, with the applicant recognising that a brief interaction can have such a positive effect on the overlooked residents of the home.

Outside of my lessons I enjoy orienteering with a local club. As part of an expedition I took part in, we walked 80km over 4 days in torrential rain. The challenging conditions demanded teamwork and trust to maintain morale and perform effectively as a group; as well as calm rational thought in stressful situations. Also, through this activity and the people I met, I have become a member of the SJA which has enabled me to gain first aid qualifications and go out on duties.

Although the bulk of a personal statement should be academic-related, it is important to show a life outside of studying. The involvement in a club or association demonstrates wider spare time interests, and the description of the challenging walking expedition provides evidence that the student can work with others and can cope in an arduous situation, obliquely suggesting that they might have the capacity for sustained and intense work . The student also shows that they understand that taking time out to relax and manage any stress is important, and conveys the impression of good time management. The passing reference to the drama group reinforces the impression that this applicant is a team-player. It is useful to describe sporting or musical interests although, as, this applicant shows, these non-academic interests don't need to be particularly high-powered ones.

Other activities I enjoy include drama - I was a member of a local group for 6 years - cycling and playing the guitar and piano which allow me to relax.

Non-academic interests don't need to be particularly high-powered.

I know that medicine is not a "9 to 5" job and is by no means the glamorous source of easy money it is often perceived to be. I understand the hours are long and potentially antisocial and that the career can be physically exhausting and emotionally draining. It is apparent that becoming a medic will involve inherent sacrifice.

However medicine is also a deeply gratifying and fascinating career path. I want to be a medic because my passion and aptitude is foremost scientific and to me 5 or 6 years more of formal education followed by a lifetime of further learning sounds like a stimulating career option and, thankfully, a far cry from the monotony some jobs pose. Nevertheless, as an intrinsically social person, I would relish a career requiring the development of strong empathic relationships with patients too. Crucially, I know I have the enthusiasm, capacity for hard work and the open and enquiring mind needed to succeed in such a fulfilling vocation.

In the concluding paragraphs, the statement is emphasising that, although aware of the negative aspects associated with the practice of medicine, fact-finding placements have given the applicant the insight and motivation to be certain that it is the right career for them. The applicant ends by summarising the key personal attributes that they believe make them well-suited to medicine.

Verdict and advice for improvement

Of course, there is room for improvement with this statement. No reference is made to the scientific subjects that are being studied at school or to particular modules that the applicant has found particularly exciting: this could have helped convey enthusiasm and curiosity in science. Although the applicant asserts that they have an 'open and enquiring mind', there is no description of any extracurricular project or reading that the applicant might have undertaken, perhaps to help them understand a highly-charged ethical issue.

Despite those omissions, this is an effective personal statement. It is well constructed, connects with the reader, and the material flows in a logical sequence. It further conveys the impression that the applicant has done the research and knows exactly what is in store: they are not applying with a naive view or because that is what is expected of them. Writing a statement along these lines would provide a good foundation for a competitive applicant and offers lots of material that can be discussed at an interview.

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  • 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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Personal statements

Your personal statement is an important part of the application process. It is how you show a university that you are right for their course. Writing a good one can take a lot of work, but don’t worry. This isn’t a test, but an opportunity to show yourself off in the best possible light. You need to show them what would make you a good student. Be clear, be honest, and be enthusiastic about your course.

Your course

The university is interested in you as a student. Show them that you are interested in your subject and will work hard at it during your studies. Look in detail at what studying this subject will involve and try to apply your existing knowledge or experience.

  • Why are you interested?
  • What sparked your interest?
  • What specific topics do you enjoy?
  • What have you done to learn about these topics?
  • What have you read about your subject?
  • What projects have you done to do with your subject?
  • If the subject is one you study at school - how have you gone beyond school requirements to learn more about it?
  • If you have an idea of a career path you’d like to follow - how does the course fit into it?

What if I’m applying for a combined course?

Make sure you include why you’re interested in both subjects and talk about them both equally.

Work experience

Relevant work experience can look great in your personal statement. Make sure you’re specific about what you have learnt and how it relates to your course. If it isn’t directly relevant, include the transferable skills you’ve gained.

The example here relates the work experience to the course. Even the most basic work experience looks good if you write about it well. It will also show the admissions team your critical and reflective thinking skills, and that you can write creatively.

Extracurricular activities and volunteering

Include activities that support your course choice. For example, going to galleries and museums for art or history courses. If you’re writing about your clubs and teams, be specific about the skills you’ve learnt from them. This could include teamwork, perseverance and time management.

Include any personal achievements and what they demonstrate. For example, taking part in a fundraising event could show your commitment and organisational skills. If you have any positions of responsibility like being a club leader or student mentor, describe those.

What if I want to take a gap year?

You’ll need to include it in your personal statement. Describe how you plan to use it constructively. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, learning new skills, volunteering and experiencing new cultures (if you choose to travel) all look great on personal statements.

Things to remember

  • Don’t leave it to the last minute - you’ll need to write several drafts.
  • You only write one personal statement and this is used for all your course choices.
  • Don’t mention things specific to only one of the courses you’re applying for.
  • Focus on themes present in all your choices.
  • Your course is the most important thing to write about.
  • Write positively in a style you feel comfortable with.
  • Use clear sentence structures.
  • Be analytical (not descriptive) about yourself and the subject.
  • Don’t try to be funny or controversial - not everyone will share your sense of humour!
  • Be honest - if you go to interview you will probably be asked about things you’ve written.
  • Write it in word processing software first, then copy and paste it into UCAS.
  • Proofread as many times as possible, don’t just rely on a spell checker.
  • Leave a few days between writing and proofreading (you’ll be more likely to spot mistakes).
  • Make sure your statement is your own and not copied (plagiarised) from anywhere.
  • Ask your parents/guardians, teachers and friends to help make final checks.
  • You are limited to 4000 characters - including spaces!

Useful links

  • UCAS has online advice on  how to write an undergraduate personal statement where you can find out more about what to write and how to structure it.
  • Check out these  example personal statements from Studential . Use them as inspiration - do not copy them! You will get caught by UCAS’ plagiarism system.
  • Browse these  Which University? articles all about personal statements .

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Sample Math Personal Statement (Oxbridge)

graduate school oxford personal statement

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

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

The following personal statement is written by an applicant who got accepted to top graduate programs in math. Variations of this personal statement got accepted at Oxford, and Cambridge university. Read this essay to get inspiration and understand what a top math school PS should look like.

Sample Math Personal Statement for Oxbridge

The challenges involved in problem-solving have always been vital to my passion for studying Mathematics. However, the first beauty of mathematics I observed was in my childhood when I first encountered Geometry.

It was a simple but exciting problem relating to circles; thus, I got myself attached to the subject. I have always been a bright student in Mathematics, and later on, I realized that Mathematics is my thing. Besides Mathematics, no other field grabs my attention. I have also won the National Calculus competition in my country.

Throughout my voyage, I have kept my studies limited to the curriculum. Still, I have also explored different things, which gave me significant exposure to what we have accomplished in Mathematics and what is left for us to do.

I eagerly want to contribute to the development of Mathematics. My current area of research is regarding simplicial complexes, which borrow ideas from Graph Theory and Combinatorics. I want to pursue my education by enrolling in the Math program at Oxford and eventually do Post Doctorate in Pure Mathematics. My area of interest lies in Algebraic Topology and Algebraic Geometry. I want to become a researcher and devote my life to the nourishment of Mathematics.

Aside from that, I am very fond of the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer Conjecture, which motivated me to choose the abovementioned areas. I learned about this conjecture when searching for methods to determine the solutions of polynomials having two variables. After digging further into things relating to this conjecture, I was amazed and startled by the beautiful work of Bryan Birch, Peter-Swinnerton Dyer (pioneer of the conjecture), Louis Mordell, Gerd Faltings, Manjul Bhargava, and Victor Kolyvagin. Their astonishing and brilliant results grabbed my attention, and I got myself attached to the conjecture.

It is surprising that different branches of Mathematics, such as Number Theory, Topology, and Algebraic Geometry, are connected abstractly. In my leisure time, I’m continuously exploring what has been accomplished so far regarding this conjecture and developing the background of Mathematics that I would need to understand and work on the conjecture. I’m eagerly looking forward to meeting this challenge in life.

Accomplishing such dreams in my country is nearly impossible as we have limited resources and no exposure to modern tools of Mathematics. However, I am much inspired by Oxford University and find it an ideal place for me to pursue my further education. Oxford has a phenomenal reputation globally and has played a significant role in current research and development of Mathematics.

I am very fond of Professor XYZ and Professor XYZ, currently members of the senior faculty at Oxford. There are of research that coincides with my area of interest. Professor XYZ’s work on 3-Dimensional Topology and Differential Geometry is advanced. His lectures on youtube are very insightful and give an excellent understanding of the subject.

On the other hand, Professor XYZ’s expertise in the subject of L-functions would help me understand the BSD conjecture. Besides that, the atmosphere of Oxford is also very appealing as it focuses on the character-building of its students. There are several societies at Oxford for this purpose, one of which is the Oxford Invariants Society. Such activities keep the student attached to people outside their field and allow them to communicate knowledge between them. The exposure of a student is bound to increase in such an atmosphere. Unfortunately, the universities in my country lack such activities, and I dreamed of such an atmosphere. It would be an honor to educate myself in such an ideal institute under the supervision of the mentioned Professors.


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Successful Personal Statement For Chemistry At Oxford

Author: Rob Needleman

  • Personal Statements
  • Successful Personal Statement For Chemistry…

Table of Contents

Welcome to our popular Personal Statement series where we present a successful Personal Statement, and our Oxbridge Tutors provide their feedback on it. 

Today, we are looking through a Chemistry applicant’s Personal Statement that helped secure a place at Oxford University. The Chemistry Course at Oxford is taught in a world-leading chemistry department with state-of-the-art teaching and research laboratories and world-class research.

Read on to see how this candidate wrote a Personal Statement that helped secure their place on a reputable degree. 

Here’s a breakdown of the Personal Statement:


The universities this candidate applied to were the following:

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With our  Oxford Chemistry Premium Programme, we help you craft the perfect Personal   Statement  and teach you how to  Interview effectively .

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Chemistry Personal Statement

Few aspects of our lives remain unaffected by the fundamental subject of chemistry. Chemists have revolutionised the way we live; from the medicines we use to the water we drink, it is hard to imagine what our everyday life would be like without the help of this vast subject. I wish to be a part of the chemical discoveries of the future which is what entices me to study chemistry in greater depth at university.

My interest in chemistry has developed a great deal since starting the AS level course. Each time I learn something new, it inspires me to develop my knowledge even further. I have particularly enjoyed the organic chemistry involved in the AS course due to the practical work it entails. Laboratory work for me is enjoyable because it provides an opportunity to test out the theoretical knowledge you have gained and is also great fun! For example, I particularly enjoyed making azo dyes as it was interesting to recreate a process in the lab which is so frequently used in industry.

I have been able to develop my passion for chemistry through wider reading. I have recently enjoyed reading Molecules at an Exhibition. The range of molecules which can have profound effects on our lives surprised me and showed me again how relevant chemistry is to our lives. I have a subscription to New Scientist. An article I particularly enjoyed reading over the summer was “Rogue elements” which explores some of the unanswered questions associated with the periodic table. For example, when the elements will stop and whether superheavy elements, which exist for fractions of a second only one atom at a time, can be considered elements at all. The article also looked at the issues of where to place the elements hydrogen and helium and where the metal/non-metal divide should be. This showed me that although the periodic table is often considered to be complete, there is still much to uncover. Reading Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You introduced me to the concept of relativity and I was amazed to find out how this theory affects chemistry as well as physics. For example without relativity the properties of some of the heavier elements such as gold would simply not be the same. I have been developing my interest in maths and have taken up AS further maths which will be largely self-taught, I know this will complement the chemistry syllabus.

Recently I took part in a UNIQ summer school at Oxford University which allowed me to have a great insight into undergraduate chemistry. I thoroughly enjoyed my week, particularly the lecture on chirality. This was a new concept for me and I was surprised by the huge differences that can result from this form of isomerism. My subject knowledge was greatly enhanced and the skills I gained have been even more valuable. I was taught to question, develop and evaluate my knowledge at every stage and become a more independent learner.

During Year 12 I acted as a science tutor for GCSE students, helping them with exam technique. I found that explaining the subject matter to others helped to enhance and consolidate my own knowledge. My success both in and out of school was rewarded when I received Clevedon’s 2014 Academic Achievement Award in chemistry.

I enjoy playing the piano and recently achieved Grade 6 during my GCSE year, developing my time management skills. My other hobbies include drama and singing and I am a member of Clevedon Light Opera Club as well as the school choir. I have taken part in several productions as well as performing in school stage shows and concerts. All of which contributed to me gaining my Gold Arts Award. I volunteer with a Rainbow group. When I started I found the prospect of running activities for a group of people quite daunting, but 2 years later I think my confidence and communication skills have improved greatly. I have developed my knowledge, skills and aptitude both in and out of school and I look forward to being able to extend these further by studying at university.

For more inspiration, take a look through our other successful Personal Statement a nalysis articles:

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Download our Free Personal Statement Starter Guide 

Good Points Of The Personal Statement

This is a well written and well-structured statement. The student places points in order of relevance, making the statement easy to read. All points are clearly explained, and their impacts on the student are clear. There is a clear introduction, main body and conclusion.

Bad Points Of The Personal Statement

Although the statement is written in a logical order, there are a lot of paragraphs. Whilst it is very good that the student has a wide range of interests and hobbies, the student dedicates two paragraphs to these. It would have been possible to shorten the statement by removing some of the points mentioned, without taking away from the quality of the statement. The student clearly has many experiences from outside of the A-level syllabus, such as the UNIQ summer school and working as a GCSE science tutor. Whilst is it of course important to describe individual experiences and achievements, focussing on the positives alone limits the impact that mentioning such experiences will have. It would have been nice to see what challenges the student faced through their experiences, and how the student overcame these.

UniAdmissions Overall Score:

This is an excellent statement. The Personal Statement is clearly written and easy to read. The length of the statement could have been reduced, however, there are no other areas in which the student needs to make significant improvements.

This Personal Statement for Chemistry is a great example of a well-written Statement that demonstrates a wealth of experience and interest, vital to Admissions Tutors.

Remember, at Oxford, these Admissions Tutors are often the people who will be teaching you for the next few years, so you need to appeal directly to them.

You can find more successful personal statements and our expert guides on our Free Personal Statement Resources page.

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    A personal statement is your chance to explain your motivation for applying and why you are a great candidate for the course. Guidelines given vary from the simple "Provide evidence in support of your application" to the more common "Tell us why you are interested in the course to which you have applied.

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    Requirements As part of your application, you will need to supply a number of supporting documents. The list of documents will depend on the course you are applying to. Which supporting documents do I need to supply? To find out which documents you need to provide in your course application, see the How to Apply section of the relevant course page.

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    Keep it simple. Keep it short. (Tip 1: Leave it until last) (Tip 2: Draft 5 first sentences) "My first exposure to the concept of genetic disease was whilst doing work experience at a deaf school. I found it incredible that the assortment of four bases could have such a tangible effect on health and development.

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    Updated: Jan 01, 2024 If you're looking to craft the perfect personal statement, reading over some Oxford personal statement examples will be the best way to start. It's one thing to read college essay tips or instructions on how to write the perfect personal statement, but another entirely to see an example of how it's done.

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    Your personal statement is submitted alongside your UCAS form, so there is no need to rehash or revisit certain details such as your A-Levels or GCSE grades. Avoid mentioning anything that is readily available to the Admissions Tutors and instead, use the space to focus on selling your own subject interest and dedication.

  10. How to write an Oxford personal statement

    TOG Aug 12, 2018 How to write an Oxford personal statement Make sure your personal statement conveys your interest in the subject - write down talks you've been to (and what they made you think), open days you've attended (and what you took away from them), and maybe even books you've read (and whether or not you agree with the author and why).

  11. Medicine: Writing your Personal Statement

    Download this page as a pdf document. Your personal statement is an important part of your application to Oxford. It allows you to tell us about your interests, achievements and ambitions in your own words. Although we do not formally score your statement we read it carefully. If you are invited for interview, the statement is likely to provide ...

  12. Biomedical Sciences: Advice on the Personal Statement

    Your personal statement is an important part of your application to Oxford. It allows you to tell us about your interests, achievements and ambitions in your own words. Although we do not formally score your statement we read it carefully and use the information it contains as part of our short-listing exercise.

  13. PDF Personal statements

    from oxford's point of view, the purpose of the personal statement is to provide additional information in the applicant's own words about why they have chosen the subject and why they think they are suitable for the course. students will be neither successful nor unsuccessful in gaining a place at oxford on the basis of their personal statement...

  14. Oxford University Personal Statements

    I now realise taking Politics and Economics was the right choice. My experiences of A Level Economics have shown me the fundamental part it plays in our lives and I am keen to study it in more depth and be able to use my knowledge to complete individual economic based studies... History Personal Statement Example 3

  15. 3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples • Pr

    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 ...

  16. Successful Oxbridge Personal Statement Examples

    25 Dec,2022 Alan Withworth Check out our successful Oxbridge personal statement examples below. You will find a collection of standout personal statements that have helped students gain admission to the prestigious universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

  17. Medicine: Anatomy of a Personal Statement

    Below is a personal statement from a recent applicant for A100 Medicine at Oxford. It is not perfect and it may not be suited to every medical school. There is no single template for success in terms of an application to Oxford. Other styles can be equally effective: we encourage individuality and diversity in our students.

  18. 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 ...

  19. Sample Economics Personal Statement (admitted to Oxford, Cambridge, LSE

    The following personal statement is written by an applicant who got accepted to top graduate programs in economics. Variations of this personal statement got accepted at Oxford, Cambridge, and LSE. Read this essay to get inspiration and understand what a top economics school PS should look like.

  20. The personal statement that got me into Oxford

    👑 Get the full guide to Economics applications eBook:https://forms.gle/gNHSvoCep1ngzm9i6📈 Get coaching for your admissions: https://calendly.com/themis-edu...

  21. Personal statements

    Your personal statement is an important part of the application process. It is how you show a university that you are right for their course. Writing a good one can take a lot of work, but don't worry. This isn't a test, but an opportunity to show yourself off in the best possible light. You need to show them what would make you a good student. Be clear, be honest, and be enthusiastic ...

  22. Sample Math Personal Statement (Oxbridge)

    The following personal statement is written by an applicant who got accepted to top graduate programs in math. Variations of this personal statement got accepted at Oxford, and Cambridge university. Read this essay to get inspiration and understand what a top math school PS should look like. Sample Math Personal Statement for Oxbridge

  23. Oxford MBA Personal Statement: Best Examples

    The Oxford MBA personal statement is as crucial as your MBA resume, ... Business is somewhere between 20 and 25%, which is higher than the ultra-competitive programs at the Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business, which can be as low as 10%. 4. Is the Oxford MBA personal statement important to the application process?

  24. Successful Personal Statement For Chemistry At Oxford

    Read through a successful Chemistry Personal Statement for Oxford with a full analysis by Oxbridge Tutors. Find out why the Personal Statement helped the candidate to receive an Oxford offer. Author: Rob Needleman ... Recently I took part in a UNIQ summer school at Oxford University which allowed me to have a great insight into undergraduate ...