The Writing Center
4508 Sage Lab
Admission to graduate school is highly
competitive. Writing an essay, or personal
statement, is often the most difficult part of
the application process. Requirements vary
widely, with some programs requesting only
one or two paragraphs about why you want
to pursue graduate study, and others
requiring five or six separate essays in
which you are expected to write at length
about your motivation for graduate study,
your strengths and weaknesses, your
greatest achievements, and solutions to
hypothetical problems. Business schools
are notorious for requiring several time-
This handout is designed to provide some
general guidance on how to write a
Start early enough to allow for
Carefully review the instructions and
prepare an outline of what you are to
Write concisely. Demonstrate your
ability to think and express ideas
Articulate your motivation and
capacity to succeed, and why you
and this program are a good match.
Use first person (“I”) and active
voice. This essay is about you.
Be unique and creative while still
writing in a scholarly fashion.
Keep the length to one or two pages.
Purpose and Audience
Your aim should be a clear, succinct statement showing that you have a definite sense of what
you want to do and enthusiasm for the field of study you have chosen. Your essay should reflect
your writing abilities; more important, it should reveal the clarity, the focus, and the depth of your
knowledge about your chosen field of study.
Before writing anything, stop and consider what your reader might be looking for; the general
directions or other