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Basic Guidelines: Personal Statement vs Statement of Purpose

21 May 2020
Learn the Basic Differences: Personal Statement vs Statement of Purpose

Well, you may need to write a statement when you would like to apply to a grad school. However, what is the major difference between the personal statement and the statement of purpose? This topic is really quite complex. Of course, you have to be sure that you correctly understand how these two types of essays are different.

In this article to the personal statement vs statement of purpose, we are going to briefly present several basic information on this matter. So, please, note that this guide is only for general understanding, as you should study this topic further in detail.

Different Points between Personal Statement and Statement of Purpose

Actually, the statement of purpose is about what you want to do as well as the personal statement describes who you are. Of course, each essay has got its peculiarities and purposes in what it is suggested doing for you and the program that you are applying to.

While the statement of purpose demonstrates the person`s academic background and strengths, career objectives, research interests as well as it corresponds to the program, the personal statement emphasizes the person`s own motivation for applying to a program, any substantive achievements that the person has had or some challenges which have been faced along the way.

Along with these substantial differences, both types of statements primarily serve the common goal: to ensure the admissions committee that you are a suitable candidate and will perfectly perform in the program that you are applying to.

Here below, you may find several basic differences between the personal statement and the statement of purpose:

  • The length of the essays. Remember to check this info carefully, as the required length of the statement may differ. Usually 1-3 double-spaced pages.
  • The level of formality. The statement of purpose is usually more formal than the personal statement.
  • The overall content. The statement of purpose generally contains the person`s professional and academic background, skills, achievements, career/academic objectives, research interests, the reason(s) why you are suitable for this program, etc. Whereas, the personal statement usually includes the following points: any appropriate experiences, challenges, achievements, the information on how the candidate developed the research interests, personal commitment, and motivation, etc.

Which Type of Essays to Choose?

Nevertheless, which statement should a candidate choose when writing for the grad school applications? You ought to remember that the answer depends on this school. What documents does it require? How does your school define these two types of essays?

Notice that some grad schools may require two separate essays for admission, other ones do not differentiate between the statement of purpose and the personal statement. Moreover, some grad programs may use the given terms interchangeably. Furthermore, some grad schools can combine the qualities from these two essays into one integrated statement. So, the applicants may need to create a combination of several required aspects.

In general, at least one of these statements is needed for most grad programs. If it is a research-based program, probably, it can be a more formal type, a statement of purpose.

Surely, you should check all the necessary requirements and visit the official website of the chosen program. It is of great importance to specify all the details and instructions in advance. Thus, you will know exactly what and how to write. You can directly contact the program via email or by phone.

Helpful Tips for Writing

Well, according to the fact that there are several peculiar points in each of these two types of essays, it is really essential to determine all of them in order to write correctly and successfully. Study this topic thoroughly and carefully.

Here below, we are going to briefly provide several general tips for writing both essays.

Writing a Statement of Purpose

Let us start with a more formal and academic type of statement.

Ponder about your Future Objectives

Layout your ambitions, explain the relation to the field that you would like to enter as well as the program you are applying to. In particular, how can this program help you? How can you accomplish your goals with the help of this academic program?

Carry out thorough research of the program

So, you may provide a deep investigation of the program and write about certain aspects that you are interested in. For instance, the candidate can mention the next features:

  • the professors you would like to work with
  • particular classes that you hope to attend
  • Internships, professionally-oriented, and networking events that are held by the grad school or program, etc.
  • The school`s specific focus on certain ideas, skills, topics, areas, etc.
  • Any other emphasis, for example, on several attributes or features of the program, group projects, competitions, etc.

Pay attention that you should not write about these things in your paper:

  • the selectivity and the acceptance rate of the program
  • the ranking of the program

Explain Why You Fit the Program

It is a very important step, especially for doctoral programs. You may highlight the next points:

  • the professor whose areas of research and expertise correspond to your academic background, research interests, skills, etc.
  • the academic/professional orientation of the program and how it matches your future purposes

The candidates ought to convince the admissions committee that they will successfully cope with the program.

Make an Emphasis on your Achievements

Well, the applicants are not expected to completely repeat their undergraduate transcript or CV/resume or other official documents. Try to be more specific here about your accomplishments. How has this attainment influenced your decision to obtain a degree in the chosen field?

Writing a Personal Statement

Let us briefly observe some tips for creating a personal statement.

Telling a Story

In general, a personal statement is less formal and more personal in comparison with the statement of purpose. So, in this case, the candidate can have a chance to be more creative and tell a convincing story.

A good idea may be to use a diversity of literary techniques (imagery, metaphors, etc.). However, be careful and do not overdo with informalities. You should present yourself as a serious enough and ideally suitable candidate for the program.

Personal Motivations

Get concentrated on the program and focus on your personal reasons for the formation and development of your interest in the field. You should explicitly apply to this academic program. By the way, what originally drew your attention to this program as well as at this time? Why do you want to keep on studying a particular field? And so on.

Explanation of the Challenges/Weaknesses that You Have Settled

Think of the main weaknesses in your application, any barriers or challenges that you have faced and overcome recently. Try to keep a positive attitude and persuade the admissions committee that you can deal with problems or challenges successfully.

General Tips

Get acquainted with the next tips that may be used when writing both types of essays.

Carefully Read and Follow the Instructions

This rule is extremely important. You should stick to all the necessary requirements.

  • Learn the specific requirements concerning the length of the essays (word, page limits, etc.)
  • Answer the prompt and all the questions in it
  • Include all the required information on each page of the paper
  • Strictly follow all the given instructions

Whether you have any questions, you should always directly contact the grad school and program and check everything in detail.

Use Particular Details

It is usually crucial to be specific enough. So, include the people`s names, places, vivid and illustrative descriptions of emotions, ideas, people, events, etc. Point out the research interests relating to the grad program. What drew the candidate to this area of study? Etc. It may be beneficial if the essay sounds realistic as well as relatable to the committee.

Sound Authentic

So, try to provide your honest and real voice. You should emphasize your intelligence and maturity. The tone may be appropriate, natural-sounding and sophisticated enough in order to highlight your personality and knowledge.

Editing and Proofreading

It is really important to write a flawless statement so that there should not be any types of mistakes, inappropriate areas, etc. Revise and review your essay carefully several times and edit when necessary.

If you would like, you can also ask someone, for example, your professor, to read your statement(s) and give feedback. Your writing ought to be grad-level (technically, too). Show off your superior writing skills. Remember to follow the necessary instructions.


Study all the credible and valuable information extensively. You should know the key differences between the statement of purpose and the personal statement.

There are several peculiarities that the applicant should follow.

The basic tips for writing a statement of purpose:

  • Think of future purposes
  • Research the program as well as the professors
  • Highlight your accomplishments
  • Explain why you are really a perfect candidate

As for the personal statement:

  • You should tell a story
  • Concentrate on your own motivations
  • Describe any challenges or weaknesses that you have coped with

Anyway, while writing both of these essays, remember to:

  • Thoroughly follow all the requirements and instructions
  • Specify the details
  • Try to be authentic
  • Of course, carefully proofread and edit your paper

So, please, note that this guide is only for the general overview, so you should study this topic in detail and check all the necessary requirements directly. Good luck to you!

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