8 Tips for Writing a Graduate School Personal Statement and Sample SOP Based on Professional Experiences. 

One of the most important aspects of a graduate school application is the personal statement. It is also known as a statement of purpose. It could be the one document you need to get right in charge to get that one yes you require. 

The personal statement is where you stand yourself out. The truth is, the majority of applications appear to be the same. Because over 80% of candidates will meet the basic requirements, the personal statement is where you persuade the admissions committee that your interests and experiences are a suitable match for your intended program. 

Your SOP not only helps the graduate school admission committee make financing decisions, but it also helps you get into the program. If your area of interest matches up with funded research projects in the department, you are more likely to receive a Lab assistantship offer. 

However, in this blog, you will learn about how to write a graduate school personal statement based on professional experience. You will learn the tips and tricks of writing an amazing SOP. I will also provide you with detailed SOP samples that you can use to draft your application and stand out. Therefore, let’s get started. 

Featured inside 

  • Introduction 
  • Featured inside
  • What is a personal statement 
  • Writing the personal statement 
  • Crafting the essay 
  • Other helpful hints to consider 
  • Sample SOP
  • Wrapping up

What is a personal statement? 

In a nutshell, a graduate school personal statement is an essay that is usually needed as part of a graduate school application. Some contend that a personal statement and a statement of purpose are not the same thing. I believe they are the same thing, but different names are used depending on who is calling. The essay, whether it’s a personal statement or a statement of purpose, explains why the applicant is qualified for the program. The way you convey the narrative is personal to you. You might want to share your life experiences, objectives, and dreams. Another person may wish to discuss their professional background and credentials. Overall, the essay is about why you are the best candidate for the program.

Some colleges, on the other hand, provide a specific prompt for the personal statement that is necessary. Other programs use open-ended essays, which allow students to concentrate on one or a few parts of their lives or personalities. Now that you know what a personal statement or a statement of purpose is, let’s look at how to write one because, as I previously stated. It is one of the most important parts of graduate school admissions, as well as various scholarships, grants, and other forms of Funding.

Writing the personal statement 

Graduate admissions committees seek for students who are a good fit for the program’s focus areas. I wasn’t sure if I needed to mention that. It’s quite evident. The personal statement is your chance to show how your aims and interests correspond to the courses, instructors, and research topics provided by your prospective program.

Here are some of the critical elements of a strong personal statement. 

1. You should be described in a strong personal statement. It should describe your intellectual path and how you choose to further your education. Don’t waste time complimenting the institution and professors for how fantastic they are and how fortunate it would be to study under such brilliant minds (they already think that). They would like to meet you. 

2. It should demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have a clear idea of what you want to study and why it is important to you. 

3. Show that you are familiar with the program and have a compelling reason to apply. Such details can be found on the program’s website or by communicating with participants. Your essay should also show that you are familiar with the university’s research as well as how you and your interests fit into it.

3. Demonstrate your intellectual curiosity, motivation, and perseverance, as well as the seriousness with which you pursue your academic goals. You might want to give some examples of how you use your intellectual curiosity in your daily life. 

4. Demonstrate to the committee that you will succeed in the program. Please, check out our recent post on why you should pursue a postgraduate degree. 

Persuasiveness is a key component of a good personal statement. Its goal is to persuade the admissions committee that you are the best candidate for the program. When writing your essay, though, it is equally crucial that you stay loyal to yourself. Matching up successfully with a program entails more than simply “measuring up” to admission requirements. I also mean determining whether or not the program is appropriate for your requirements and interests. It’s a one-way roadway in both directions. That’s why it’s crucial that you show off not only your best writing but also your actual academic interests. I know it seems ridiculous, but it’s the truth.

Relevant questions you need to take yourself when drafting your SOP

There are a few questions you should think about when writing your graduate school essay. As an example, 

  • What have been your life’s experiences that have led you to this point? 
  • What makes you want to go to graduate school? 
  • What do you expect to add to your field as a student or a graduate? 

You must have a thorough understanding of your desired program in order to illustrate why you are a suitable fit. You may want to consider the following questions: 

  • Which professors are working on projects that are relevant to your interests?
  • What about their work speaks to you as meaningful, fascinating, or appealing? 
  • Is there any specialist training or course sequences available that align with your objectives? 
  • Are there any specific research centers or institutions that can help you with the research you want to do?

Additional questions you might ask yourself:

  • What makes you or your life experiences unique, noteworthy, or impressive? 
  • What distinguishes you from the competition? 
  • What have you discovered about your field that has piqued your interest and convinced you that you are uniquely qualified to contribute to it? 
  • Have any classes, readings, seminars, research, or internship experiences in your profession inspired you? 
  • Have you had any conversations with persons in the field who have influenced your decision?
  • Do you have any unique abilities or professional experience that will help you succeed? 
  • Are there any gaps in your academic record that need to be addressed?

These questions will help you in covering the majority of every topic of your essay while also allowing you to stand out. Remember to stay true to yourself. Let’s get started on the essay now. Meanwhile, I’ll show you examples of SOP that solve some of the points mentioned farther down this article. You’ll be able to see how the author wrote and recognize the differences between them.

Crafting the essay

When crafting the essay, you might want to have the following in mind. 

The opening paragraph

The first paragraph of your essay is usually the most crucial. It establishes a foundation for the rest of your essay by introducing your primary points. When you’ve figured out what you want to say, it’s usually easier to write this paragraph last.

Tell a story

Your statement should tell a story about your life with specific information. Describe the incidents that influenced your career or educational goals. Which of your life events shaped your values?

Be clear

Instead of focusing on broad generalizations, your essay should include precise details. Instead of simply, “My research internship gave great experience,” a more intriguing and persuasive statement would be to discuss the precise skill and insight you gained: “I obtained a better knowledge of how young moms make traits by recording interview methods and classifying the data.”

Other helpful hints to consider 

Here are some useful hints you can use while writing your personal statement and afterward to improve it. 

1. Ask for help. Using your writing aids for brainstorming, proofreading, style, and grammar. 

2. Request feedback from your professors and advisors on your draft. 

3. Allow plenty of time to review, rewrite, and edit your essay by planning ahead. plus everything else.

Top Recommendations

Sample SOP

These are excellent examples of SOPs written by international students. I’m going to quote them verbatim. I’ll indicate the author and which school accepted them with that SOP at the end of each sample. Remember to pay attention to everything we’ve said so far, as well as everything we’ve left out. Send us an email at or leave your questions in the comments section below: jobsandjapa@gmail.com 

Sample SOP 1

“My research interests lie in computer networks and span internet protocols, datacenters, and mobile networking. These interests are motivated by various research projects on which I have worked in the last few years. My first networking project was on TCP incast problems in DCNs with Dr. Fawaz S. Bukhari. After this project I developed a keen interest in Networks and Data center research and enrolled in a research based course Topics in Internet Research taught by Dr. Ihsan A. Qazi and Dr. Zartash A. Uzmi. The project from this course led to my Thesis Joint Scheduling and Load Balancing in DCNs. After completion of my MS, I was offered an RAship at NSG LUMS, and I am currently working as an RA for the past few months on 4G Evolved Packet Core.

As part of my MS thesis with Dr. Ihsan A. Qazi and Dr. Zartash A. Uzmi, I worked on a data center load balancing problem. Currently, flow scheduling and load balancing solutions work completely independently. We envisioned an intelligent cooperative scheme which takes load balancing decisions while taking into account the flow scheduling information. For testing our idea, we tried to overcome hash collisions in ECMP by leveraging flow size information from flow scheduler i.e. PIAS in our case. With our scheme, we managed to improve overall flow completion time by up to 36%. We implemented Our scheme on a Linux test-bed setup in our university. As a benefit of this multifaceted project, I not only developed a deep understanding of challenges in data center load balancing but I also gained hands-on experience of SDN tools, such as Open Virtual Switch and RYU controller, and Linux networking stack. From a research point of view, I learned to troubleshoot the problem causing suboptimal performance when theoretically everything should work one.

In my course project for Topics in Internet Research with Dr. Ihsan A. Qazi, I tested the impact of different transport protocols on load balancing schemes under normal as well as failure scenarios. We performed experiments to see if there was any performance degradation in ECMP and Packet Spraying when coupled with different transport protocols i.e. DCTCP, PIAS and pFabric. The results lead to the conclusion that performance deterioration remains the same regardless of the transport protocol used. For our experimentation we used NS2. During this project I developed a good understanding of NS2. In addition, I also learned that sometimes a component which we have left considering trivial can affect results significantly, so it is not wise to ignore a thing because it seems inconsequential.

In another course project, I worked under mentorship of Dr. Fareed Zafar to study the evolution of black market services in the past few years. These services in social media are used to give a false sense of popularity about a certain user, campaign or a product. We collected data using Wayback Machine, and analyzed the services provided for different social media platforms like Face-book, Twitter, and Youtube. We found out services evolved for the platforms which added new things to their platforms, or introduced some security measures against collusion qnetworks. During this project I learned about data collection, cleaning and analysis.

After my Bachelors, I worked as an Android developer for more than a year. This was a great opportunity and I got hands-on experience with developing and maintaining large code bases. During this time, I also worked on a research project that piqued my interest in academic research and motivated me to apply for a two year research intensive Master’s Program. Due to aforementioned research experiences, I developed a passion and enthusiasm for research, and unlike simple software development, I started really enjoying my work. The opportunity to work on an unsolved problem and exploration of new frontiers and domains of scientific knowledge excites me and leads me to believe that I will be a perfect t for a Ph.D. program, which would train me to be a better researcher.

After explaining my research, I would like to address my Bachelor’s GPA. I understand 2.61/4.0 seems below average according to US universities but I was slightly above average in my Program. My undergrad university has a strict grading policy due to which the average GPA of my batch was around 2.6.

My desire to join the CS program at CU Boulder is based on advice from my advisors and overlap of my research interests with a number of professors at CU Boulder working in areas of Networks and Systems. I am most interested in working with Dr. Eric Rozner and Dr. Eric Keller. Dr. Eric Rozner’s works “PRESTO” and “AC/DC TCP”; and Dr. Eric Keller’s works “FluidMem” and “SDN in Wide-Area Networks: A Survey” align really well with my research interests and experiences.”

Author: Shazal Irshad, PhD in Computer Science & Network and Systems, University of Colorado. 
Got Accepted into: University of Utah and University of Colorado Boulder for Ph.D. Fall 2018. 

SOP Sample 2

“Computers have interested me since I was in high school. At first, it was mainly computer games that I was interested in, such as Wolfenstein, Claw, Prince of Persia (the old DOS ones), and Age of Empires. The algorithms, graphics and overall feel of the games first sparked an interest in me to develop such games. As I grew up and went to college, I realized that computers could be useful for so much more. After finishing high school, I chose to study Information Technology in NITK Surathkal, the best and most sought-after engineering college in Karnataka. My stay in NITK ignited in me a desire for being a teacher. In my final year of Engineering, I wrote the Graduate Admission Test in Engineering (GATE) in 2010, and achieved a rank of <Anonymized Rank>, out of <Anonymized number of applicants> applicants. I got admission into IIIT Bangalore, for a Master of Technology in Information Technology.

In IIIT Bangalore, I discovered I had a passion for algorithms. I diligently studied the subject and came second in my class of 160 students in that course. While being a student there, I also wished to complete my education with a PhD and become a college teacher. In order to prepare for the role of being a teacher, I volunteered and was accepted as a teaching assistant in the course Mathematical Models of Computation, in which I helped in setting practice papers, as well as in the conduct of the exams, etc.

A few weeks after joining my Masters course, I received a bequest from my younger brother Pradeep – his old laptop. Among the things I found on it was a folder of folktales, as well as a few other articles. One of the articles was on a system of classification called the “Aarne-Thompson Tale Type Index”. Upon reading that article, I came across the fact that folktales are similar across different cultures, and could hence be classified and clustered based on their similarity with one another. For example, the story of Noah’s ark is similar to the flood of the Deucalion in Roman Myth, and the story of the Matsya Avatar of Vishnu. This led me to ask the question: What if we could classify similar texts using a machine? And so began my very first tryst with research towards the end of my Masters in IIIT Bangalore. While doing my thesis, Natural Language Processing interested me. NLP combines algorithms, linguistics, statistics and probability. Despite the fact that I have never had a formal course in NLP prior to applying, the qualities I have gained through doing research, coupled with my skill with algorithms and reading habit, have instilled into me a bedrock of belief that I am well prepared for doctoral work in computer science.

IIT Bombay has one of the best Computer Science Departments in the country, more so from the point of view of research in the field of natural language processing. The college recently was the host of the 24th International Conference on Computational Linguistics, the first time that the conference was hosted by India. Prof. Pushpak Bhattacharya, one of the Professors of the Department of Computer Science has been involved in many research projects from various Government organizations, such as the Dravidian Wordnet, English to Indian Language Machine Translation, Cross-Lingual Information Access, etc. Given my sound academic background and zeal for research and teaching, I am optimistic of being able to gather a much deeper understanding of NLP through the PhD program, and making rich contributions to this in the long run.”

Author: Sandeep Albert Matthias, PhD in computer science and Natural Language Processing . 
Got Accepted into: IIT Bombay

SOP Sample 3

“My interest in Organizational Behavior came mostly out of my past year and a half of work experience in two separate jobs. In my first job after graduate school, I worked at City Year – a nonprofit that performs community service in underserved areas of major cities. City Year had a very eccentric culture, which encouraged positivity and, generally, a feeling of collective happiness amongst its employees – in other words, City Year really made it a part of its conscious corporate strategy to utilize emotional contagion, and it was incredibly effective. I thrived in this environment, and I witnessed a large number of other employees who excelled in this environment that truly valued its employees and the positive interactions amongst employees more than any other aspect of the organization.

After City Year (before joining Teach for America, where I currently work), I worked for a year at the New York City Economic Development Corporation – a fairly archetypal corporate environment. I did not thoroughly enjoy this corporate culture, but I became engrossed by the dynamics of it and how it affects people in different ways. Particularly in contrast to the great environment fostered in City Year, the problems of this corporate environment were readily apparent to me. These problems range from a stifling culture, bureaucracy, and lack of interaction/friendship amongst divisions in a company, and – as is apparent to an organizational researcher, but perhaps not someone that has been inculcated into this culture – these problems were not just surface problems, but they appeared to directly affect the quality of work that was done.

In my two years of working these different jobs, my fascination with organizational behavior began. My main interest is in studying the discrete emotions and affect of workers and how these impact an individual’s motivation and effectiveness in working with teams – two key aspects of success for an employee and, likewise, the organization in which they work. I would like to further study the best ways that a company can propagate a positive work environment, or a positive affective culture, amongst all employees (e.g., by strong leadership buy-in, by employee ownership of and responsibility for programs), and also why this sort of environment is not encouraged as much as one would think (or hope). I believe it has to do with the leaders who, in my opinion, “create” a work and effective culture that is difficult to change. This belief is corroborated, in part, by the literature which demonstrates the significant effect a leader’s trait positive effect has on subordinates’ opinion of their leadership quality and the more objective performance of the team. Then the question becomes, “Why does a leader not consciously work to create a positive work environment for their employees and, thereby, for themselves as well?” It would seem that the literature suggests that the reason is, at least in part, to maintain power hierarchies – especially if the leader is younger or more inexperienced. However, I would like to go further and research what characteristics a leader actually needs to exhibit in order to maintain these hierarchies – in other words, do they actually have to be emotionally (and physically, as in having a corner office that they rarely come out of) distant, emotionally regulated, and excessively formal to the point of being excluded from the ever-important informal conversations that regularly happen amongst employees? I certainly see the need, particularly as a leader, to maintain a degree of emotional regulation so as to be stable and consistent for your employees with the more surface-level emotions that we all experience day-to-day, but there is certainly a level at which the emotions are over-regulated and the individual is generally being emotionally inauthentic to a degree that is felt by employees and makes them feel disconnected to the team and the work. At this point, many leaders are simply leading in a way that see as necessarily “corporate” and in line with what has been the status quo for the past several decades; however, with the increased understanding of the importance of affect (both leaders and subordinates and the interactions between the two) in organizations, the idea of how to be most effective as a leader, and what is the best culture to create for your employees, needs to be thoroughly rethought as well. For example, research from 2001 showing that leader’s demonstrating anger increases perceptions of their power should be further expanded to understand why anger increases perceptions of power, as well as what additional dispositional effects and discrete emotions result in different responses amongst employees. It is my belief that leaders can maintain the power hierarchies that they desire, and potentially need in order to be effective, without sacrificing important parts of themselves and their effect in the process.

This idea of what type of affective culture a leader should work to foster for maximum team effectiveness also needs to be further studied in the context of newly hired employees. It needs to be further investigated how a group’s emotional history impacts, and interacts with, the affective culture that is being created by the leader and the organization; however, with job tenure becoming shorter and shorter in the past decade in particular, work team’s emotional histories are becoming shorter and more unstable; in this way, it is crucial to understand how new employees impact an affective culture and how they can best be integrated into an affective culture, particularly if their dispositional affect is not fully in line with the culture that has been created in a team. This line of research could lead to changes in how employees are recruited at organizations; that is, it would be more important for a recruiter to thoroughly understand a potential new hire’s dispositional affect, as opposed to characteristics that are generally seen as being more in the realm of cognitive behavior, such as their decision-making ability and performance of tasks in previous jobs. There is a great deal of exciting, and highly relevant, research that can be done in the realm of new employees’ affect, how it changes over time, and how this impacts pre-existing groups’ emotional histories.

In addition, I love the recent work done by Shimul Melwani, in collaboration with Dr. Barsade, on how gossip impacts teams and organizations. I believe the negative impact of even small amounts of gossip on individuals’ and teams’ emotions can be exceedingly large. In this way, I would like to further study the flip-side of gossip: that is, how can gossip, an incredibly effective way of disseminating information and emotions, be used to encourage positive, rather than just negative and destructive, emotions amongst a group.

I would like to study organizational behavior at Wharton for a number of reasons. First of all, the work by Dr. Sigal Barsade over the past two decades has been incredibly influential in demonstrating the importance of affect in organizations; it has been much of her research that, once I became independently interested in studying organizational behavior, showed me there was a path for me to study exactly what I am interested in. In addition, the opportunity to work on projects with Dr. Nancy Rothbard, another important scholar of emotions research in organizations, would be of great interest to me. Specifically, I would like to further study the idea of work and non-work identities, how these co-exist among individuals, and the strain caused by the emotional regulation required to maintain these potentially disparate identities. Beyond this, I would like to study organizational behavior not just to be a researcher for my own sake, but to be able to influence actual practices in organizations. There is a pandemic of unhappy individuals in their jobs, and I would like to be a part of the current paradigm shift where the importance of emotions in organizations is further understood and discussed. To encourage this discussion, I revel in the opportunity to teach and speak to the MBA students at Wharton, the most academically and managerially successful students in the world, who will go on to be the most impactful leaders and be in a place to directly influence the practice of managing in a manner that respects the importance of affect and emotions in their organizations. It is only through this daily communication with brilliant young practitioners that the current paradigm shift can be fully realized in practice.”

Author: Jaime Potter, PhD in organisational Behaviours and Managements, The Wharton School. 
Got Accepted into: The Wharton School

Wrapping up

Finally, I believe that you have learnt a lot from this article. It took me a lot of resources, research time and effort to come up with this piece. If you find it helpful, please tell me in the comments or send us a mail. The blog is about how to write a graduate school personal statement based on professional experience. There is no need to copy the samples above. You can reach out to us via the email above for assistance. Remember that any form of plagiarism may lead to disqualification. So, be guided. However, I hope it’s worth your time and mine too. Remember to subscribe to our newsletter to me first to get notified of our recent post. We also share about events that might help you in your journey to advance. Thank you and good luck! 

Graduate School personal statement

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap