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Hello, all! I'm a first-gen college student and the process of trying to move forward with graduate school is becoming an incredibly difficult and confusing set of tasks. 

I see that this board has some really amazing resources and tips for the Statement of Purpose, but I can't find too much about Personal History essays other than "let's swap" posts. I have no idea what the best way to tackle a PH essay would be, what to include, how whimsical to be. All of it is a total mystery to me.

Does anyone have any advice, tips, tricks, etc. for Personal History essays? 🙏 Thank you!!

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Not sure how helpful this is, but on the website of one of the unis I'm interested in they mentioned:
"The purpose of this optional essay is to get to know you as an individual and as a potential graduate student, and to understand how your background will add to the diversity of our school. Please describe how your personal background has motivated you to pursue a graduate degree."

I know that some SOP guides recommend mentioning significant life events (to stand out), but if some department requires a different personal history essay, then maybe that's where you should mention most of these things.

They also mentioned: "Please note that the Personal History Statement is not meant to be a general autobiography."
I have taken it to mean that if the SOP is an essay focused on the intellectual/academic reasons, then the personal history should focus on what happened in your life (outside of university/school) that motivated you.

Fair disclaimer: I haven't applied to any programs yet, so I'm not quite sure how right it is. I'd also like to know more if anyone else has any input.

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  • 1 month later...

Mildly resurrecting this post in hopes someone can help--

I have a general grasp on what the two are and how they differ, but I guess I'm now struggling with which information should go where.

For example, I went to college several years ago, did poorly, then returned to college recently and worked my ass off for a 4.0 gpa. I quit my job to go abroad, specifically to work in an environment that gave me experience aligned with my graduate research goals. 

Would these be SoP items or personal history items, both, neither? When I look up examples, I have a hard time finding anything similar in terms of adding life experience 😫

 

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  • 3 months later...

From what I can tell, when they're separate, the Statement of Purpose is more like a project proposal - focusing on the department/faculty/plans for study + accomplishments that prepare you for it, so you could talk about how the work experience prepared you for the grad program there, but the history of it and how overcoming your struggles puts you in a position to give back to the community should go in the Personal Statement. 

No idea about tone - I'm struggling with that as well! Hope this helps. 

 

 

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Hi so I have applied to a few programs which required the PH essay but I am not sure if I got those correct (as I don't have results :P). I think your PH should entirely be about yourself and they want you to get personal but also relate it to the program/ school's environment. eg: if you are a first generation student you can maybe talk about the pressure to do well or how you had to struggle for it. I would personally refrain from dramatising it too much because you need to come across as emotionally stable (not sure if this is right but I feel its important given how tough grad programs can get on mental health). I talked about me being a south asian woman and how the struggle of identity and discrimination has refined my thought and appreciation for opportunities. Hope this helps and as I said I don't know if this advice works because I don't have any results yet 

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On 8/21/2021 at 3:30 AM, serpentstone said:

Mildly resurrecting this post in hopes someone can help--

I have a general grasp on what the two are and how they differ, but I guess I'm now struggling with which information should go where.

For example, I went to college several years ago, did poorly, then returned to college recently and worked my ass off for a 4.0 gpa. I quit my job to go abroad, specifically to work in an environment that gave me experience aligned with my graduate research goals. 

Would these be SoP items or personal history items, both, neither? When I look up examples, I have a hard time finding anything similar in terms of adding life experience 😫

 

I think you should vaguely mention this in the SOP and in the PH really go into it and relate it to your unwavering determination and how that will help you in not crumbling under grad school preparation. 

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