Difference in Meaning Personal Statement vs Statement of Purpose


When you need to complete your graduate school application, you will have to deal with writing samples like a personal statement and a statement of purpose (also known as PS and SOP). But some students confuse these concepts and lose points consequently. But if you want to escape this common mistake and meet all the university requirements, you need to make sure you know the personal statement vs. statement of purpose topic well. This is how you will raise your chances of admission.

In short, when we talk about the personal statement, we look back, while in the statement of purpose, we look forward. In other words, in a personal statement, we describe who we are, while in the statement of purpose, we are focused on who or what we want to be. In both cases, we refer to our knowledge and experience. But in the first case, you simply tell the reader about your current personality, while in the second case, you explain why and what you want to study and what goals you want to pursue.

Elements of a Good Personal Statement

Here is what you need to include in your personal statement:

  • your motivation to apply for the program;
  • your achievements and success in the relevant areas;
  • challenges that you have overcome in your personal or educational life.

This piece is more personal as you describe what is inside you, and you can make it less formal than usual texts in an application. It is like you are talking to the reader, revealing your personal and professional background, life experience, your dreams and hopes, and other aspects that help to know your personality better. Also, there are three structural elements you need to add to your personal statement.

1. A story

Presenting your personal statement in the form of a story, you can raise your chances for reaching the reader’s heart and mind. This is the great format for presenting your writing skills while describing your motivation and reasons you are a suitable candidate for a graduate study. It does not matter what field of study you want to become a part of. Great writing and storytelling skills will show your persistence and intellect required for acceptance.

2. Engaging details to warm up the interest of a reader

This can be either story or situation from your life that can showcase something valuable about your personality. This can be funny or sad moments, but the most important thing about them is their relevance and memorability. The clearer the message of the story is, the better. Tell about your winnings or moments you were down. This may help to disclose the reasons you decided to pursue the chosen career. The story should be unique and personal, and details of it should reveal more about why you became who you are now.

3. Brief description of your motivation and dreams

Some students willing to impress the admission committee try to use high phrases and complicated structures. They think that more “upgraded” words they use, the more academic your text is. But this is not the case when you need to showcase your writing skills. Sure, you have to use the right voice and strong words but without unnecessary parts like “to make a story short,” etc. Think of your personal statement as a few-minute opportunity to impress your reader. As this is it, it will be written in a few minutes, and you have to make each word count. Keep in mind that the admission committee reader has seen tons of such texts and can spot insincere narration written with a thesaurus.

Elements of an Impressive Statement of Purpose

Here is what you need to include in your statement of purpose:

  • your academic background and skills;
  • your skills and interests in research;
  • your professional goals;
  • reasons you are suitable for the program.

Another case when schools request from students to prepare a statement of purpose where they should disclose reasons, they want to keep study in the chosen field. This is more formal writing where you should showcase your academic background and professional skills and expertise to prove you are suitable for developing the chosen field. Below you will find the important elements of the statement of purpose.

1. Reasons you pursue this academic degree

Tell your reader about your talents in research or commitment to develop in the chosen academic field to teach and acquire an advanced academic degree. Or maybe you need to get a degree to gain extra points in a competitive corporate world. Specify any other proper reason you want to keep studying.

2. Description of your interest in the target discipline

Connect your interests and talents to the purposes and specifications of a targeted discipline. Include your experience at school, internship, or volunteering. Add mentors’ references that will support your level regarding this discipline.

3. Your plans after pursuing a degree

Point out that your life goals are tied to your professional success, and you want to reach the stated goals in the chosen field. Be specific about your personal goals and academic goals. Make a clear vision of your professional path.

So, knowing the specific features of both types of statements, we can define their differences. Personal Statement is focused more on your personality and individual experience that motivates you to pursue the target academic goals. While in a statement of purpose, you need to focus on your professional, academic, and educational achievements that can help you on your academic career path.

But the article dedicated to the personal statement vs statement of purpose topic will be complete only if we disclose the common things of these two types of writing.

Important Recommendations for Writing Both Personal Statement And Statement of Purpose

  1. Follow the requirements carefully and follow them in your statement. Do not miss adding any requested info or specifying the program you are applying to.
  2. Add specific details and use your natural tone in your text. This will make your statement sound real and sincere that will help to set a connection with a reader in an admission group. Do not just write about the disciplines you are interested in. Mention the topics and situations you have worked with and what experiences they brought to you.
  3. Proofread and edit your final text. After all, personal statement or statement of purpose also are aimed at showcasing your writing and communicational skills. So make sure your text is mistake-free and written in a logical sequence.

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