Personal Statement Vs Statement of Purpose: Effective Guide

Personal statement versus statement of purpose, what is the difference? You may have seen the terms “statement of purpose” or “personal statement” used interchangeably. However, it’s not uncommon for those writing a personal statement to have a statement of purpose done and submit both. 

In this article, you will understand the difference between the two. This guide gives you an overview of the differences and information to include in your statement. You will also find helpful tips for writing both statements.

What Is a Personal Statement?

A personal statement is a brief, reflective essay about one’s life and experiences. It is typically written to accompany a resume or application for admission to graduate school or other professional programs. A strong personal statement can make you stand out from the competition and persuade an admissions’ committee that you deserve admission. 

The personal statement briefly summarizes your qualifications, strengths, and unique experiences. It shows how you will contribute to a job or program. It should be well-written and organized to demonstrate your interest in the job or program you are applying to.

Statement of Purpose: What Is It?

The reasons and incentives for pursuing a certain course of action are detailed in a statement of purpose. The statement of purpose is often used in applications for academic programs or jobs. But it can also be drafted for other purposes, such as fundraising or grant proposals. 

A statement of purpose will concisely describe your goals, outline your skills, and demonstrate why you are well-suited for the position you are applying.

The statement of purpose is significant because it tells the admissions’ committee who you are and what you want to study. It helps them determine if your qualifications and interests match the program you are applying to.

The purpose statement includes three main components: 

  • The motivation driving your dissertation; 
  • Significance of the research you plan to carry out; and 
  • The questions that you are going to address in your dissertation.

Personal Statement versus Statement of Purpose: Key Differences

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Statements of purpose and personal statements seem very similar; after all, they’re both used to introduce oneself to a committee or organization. However, there are vital differences between the two types of statements. 

A personal statement is less detailed.

Personal statements are usually less detailed than statements of purpose. Personal statements focus on your qualifications and experience. While statement of purpose outlines your academic and professional goals and explains your goals. 

Typically, a statement of purpose is two pages long, while a personal statement is just one page.

The statement of purpose is more formal.

A statement of purpose is more official than a personal statement because it presents relevant information in an organized and concise way. Personal statements are more informal. 

A statement of purpose usually contains specific details about your academic or professional background and why you’re interested in pursuing graduate study. It is written to show how you can contribute to the academic community rather than focusing on your personal experiences.

The focus is different.

A personal statement focuses on the following: 

  • The candidate’s skills.
  • The candidate’s relevant experiences, difficulties, or successes.

 A statement of purpose focuses on the following: 

  • Presenting the credentials and qualifications of early career candidates. 
  • Explaining how the candidate intends to fulfill any stated academic or professional objectives. 

Personal Statement versus Statement of Purpose: Which do you need?

An admissions’ committee can learn more about your qualifications from your personal statement and statement of purpose. However, depending on the university, one may be more preferred than the other. 

Mostly, for college and university applications, you will need a personal statement. While for graduate school applications, a statement of purpose will suffice. The personal statement allows you to showcase your achievements and personality, while purpose statements focus on your academic goals and research interests.

A personal statement reflects your experiences and achievements, while a statement of purpose pertains to your plans for graduate study. 

The statement of purpose should reflect what you would like to accomplish academically in a specific field or program. The personal statement should demonstrate leadership, character, poise, and communication ability.

Personal Statement versus Statement of Purpose: What to include

Personal statement:

When preparing a personal statement, be sure to include the following: 

  • Your name. 
  • The institution you are applying to. 
  • A brief introduction that outlines your academic and professional achievements. 
  • Why are you interested in the specific program or field of study at the institution you are applying to? 
  • What unique skills or experiences can you bring to the program?
  • Qualities that make you stand out from other applicants. 
  • Above all, ensure your writing conveys enthusiasm for the program and demonstrates your commitment to learning.

Statement of purpose:

To create a compelling statement of purpose, be sure to include the following information: 

  • Your educational history. 
  • What motivated you to pursue higher education. 
  • The reasons why you selected the specific school(s) you applied to. 
  • Your future goals and how obtaining a degree will help you achieve them.

General Guidelines for the Personal Statement and the Statement of Purpose

When writing a personal statement or a statement of purpose, it is important to keep the following tips in mind: 

  • Be clear and concise. 
  • Make sure your statements are error-free. 
  • Stay positive and upbeat. 
  • Avoid clichés and generalizations.
  • Personalize your statement to the person(s) reading it.
  • Make sure your grammar, spelling, and punctuation are perfect. 
  • Stay on topic. 
  • Avoid filler content.
  • Avoid being vague or ambiguous. 
  • Make your argument well-reasoned. 
  • Use strong, evidence-based language.


Personal statement versus statement of purpose? 

A personal statement typically focuses on your experiences and what you have to offer. While a statement of purpose emphasizes your goals and why you are interested in pursuing a specific degree or program. 

Both types of statements are essential components of an application package, but be sure to tailor each to the audience reading it. A thoughtful write-up and consideration of context can help you get accepted into the school or job of your dreams! 

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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