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Personal Statement Logistics

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Can someone elaborate what adcoms look for in Personal Statements? When they look at it? Why - as in, why do only American citizens/greencard holders need to write one? Does it help you to get funding? And lastly, should you focus on information that is pertinent to your research, or do you discuss your major personal accomplishments? 


Thank you

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If the only essay required is called a Personal Statement, it should actually be treated as a Statement of Purpose.


If they ask for both an SOP and a Personal Statement.. then there should be specific instructions on the program websites indicating what they look for in those second statements.

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I am aware. Below I will copy/paste the instruction for this particular institution's Personal Statement, but I am still curious how adcoms look at it, what theyre looking for, does it funding, etc. I want to better understand what a Personal Statement is. My Personal Statement is already completed, and I am satisfied with the content, however if i better understand what it is used for, maybe I can add/remove certain things. 




Applicants for our graduate programs are selected using a holistic evaluation system. This essay will assist both the admissions committee and fellowship review committees to evaluate your background and motivation for graduate study. In your personal history statement, please describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Make sure to address the following topics:

  • Any educational, familial, cultural, economic or social experiences or opportunities relevant to your academic journey
  • Challenges and/or obligations you have had to address in order to achieve your educational goals and how you addressed them
  • Employment while an undergraduate
  • How your perspectives or activities contribute to social or cultural diversity and/or make you sensitive to the experiences of underrepresented groups

This "Personal History Statement" is required for all applicants who are US Citizens or legal US Permanent Residents and is different from the "Statement of Purpose" that is required for all applicants. The "Statement of Purpose" is expected to focus on your academic/research background and interests while the "Personal History Statement" is expected to focus on your personal background.

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One of my programs has similar, almost exactly the same wording. They use it for specific school-wide scholarships and fellowships awarded to students who the school feels will add to the diversity of the student population.

Your program might be different though. Have you asked anyone there yet?

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The Graduate Department homepage discusses that your PS will qualify you for certain fellowships/scholarships, as you have mentioned. In addition, while perusing the application section on their website, they discuss the importance of student diversity; basically everything you mentioned. However, Im still fuzzy on what they WANT to see on a PS. Of course, they want you to discuss your major personal achievements, hardships blah blah blah, but I do want to critique the essay in favor of their expectations. 


In my PS, (if you'd like to read it, youre more than welcome to) I talk about my immigration to the US following the collapse of Communist Hungary, briefly living in a refugee camp, my new life in the US, working while in school, and what all this has amounted to, in regards to my research topics and why I am pursuing graduate school. 


Im curious, but is the program you're referring to UCSB? Im applying to UCI, and I noticed alot of UC programs have the same instructions in terms of SOP/PS. 

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