Personal Statements

Are you interested doing research? Preparing to apply to graduate school? If so, as part of the application process, you will be required to highlight your research interests, experience, and education in the form of a personal statement.

Below are some guidelines to follow when constructing your personal statement. In addition, you can make an appointment to review your statement with a career advisor. The Career Center has appointment types for both research and graduate school personal statements.


  • To share your interest and enthusiasm for the specific work you are applying to do.
  • To demonstrate what you can contribute to the program to which you are applying.
  • To state the specific laboratory you want to work in and why.
  • To state your professional goals and what or how you hope to contribute to the program.

First Steps

  • Read the personal statement question carefully and analyze what information is being requested.
  • Visualize your audience. Will this be read by a scientist? A physician? An administrator?
  • Create an outline of the 3-4 aspects of your background.  Consider your: education, experience, research interests


  • Describe what led you to select your major
  • Include your year of study, current major, related academic and career goals, and impressive academic credentials.


  • Mention a special connection to this research/work, such as prior experience or family background.
  • Describe something unique about your research interests or an idea that fuels your own research interests.

Your Proposed Contributions to the Program and How You Would Benefit

  • List personal qualities that would benefit the program, demonstrated through examples.
  • State what you can do for the program and what you seek to gain from the opportunity.
  • Explain how this specific work fits into your academic and research goals, both short- and long-term.

Writing and Mechanics

  • Use strong word choices, particularly verbs and adjectives.
  • Use the more powerful “I am,” rather than “I have always been.”
  • Make positive statements: “I have experience in…” not “I don’t have experience in x, but do have…”
  • Craft clear, engaging opening and closing sentences.
  • Make sure the opening statement is supported in the body and consistent with the closing statement.
  • Organize the statement so it flows from sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph.
  • Correct usage conveys your attention to detail.
  • Proofread for grammar, spelling, paragraph breaks, and correct punctuation.

Questions To Ask Yourself

  • Does this statement show my interest in this specific program, or could it be sent to any program?
  • Does this statement describe me specifically, or could any good student in my field use this?

Additional Suggestions:

  • Reread the personal statement multiple times out loud for clarity, logic and flow.
  • Have someone else proofread the statement.
  • Share your finished personal statement with the faculty member writing your recommendations.
  • Limit the statement to one and a half to two pages, with spacing of at least one and a half-inches.
  • Include a header with your name on each page. Number all pages.


  • Restating the question/topic
  • Listing all your accomplishments. They already have those documents, so
  • Clichés such as “to make the world a better place;” instead, explain exactly how such a lofty goal will be achieved.
  • Providing unrelated information, e.g., explaining when you learned you were not interested in computers.
  • Using phrases like “this opportunity will be fun and interesting for me;” instead, focus on what you can contribute.
  • Any background earlier than high school.

From the UMBC Office of Undergraduate Research.

Additional Resources

Tips: Writing a Personal Statement For Grad School

Overcoming Personal Statement Writer’s Block

To learn more about summer research, visit  Undergraduate Research & Prestigious Scholarships

For information about applying to graduate school, visit the Applying to Graduate School page.


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