Grad School Application Statements

This handout is available for download in DOCX format and PDF format.


Graduate and professional schools often require some sort of written statement—often called a “statement of purpose,” “personal statement,” or “letter of intent”—as a part of the application. Some statements require rather specific information: for example, the applicant's intended area of study within a graduate field. Still others are quite unstructured, leaving the applicant free to address a wide range of matters. The importance of the statement varies from school to school and from field to field. 

Determine your purpose in writing the statement

Usually the purpose is to persuade the admissions committee that you are an applicant who should be chosen. Whatever its purpose, the content must be presented in a manner that will give coherence to the whole statement.

Pay attention to the purpose throughout the statement so that any extraneous material is left out. Pay attention to the audience (the committee) throughout the statement. Remember that your audience is made up of professionals in their field, and you are not going to tell them how they should act or what they should be. In this context, at least, you are the amateur.

Determine the content of your statement

Be sure to answer any questions fully. Analyze the questions or guidance statements for the essay completely and answer all parts. Usually graduate and professional schools are interested in the following matters, although the form of the question(s) and the responses may vary:

Determine your approach and style of the statement

There is no “perfect way to write a statement.” There is only the one that best fits you.



Words and phrases to avoid without explanation

Where to go for help

Adapted from UC Berkeley Career Center, 2020,