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Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose? Learn the Difference

It’s a common question: What is the difference between a personal statement and a statement of purpose? It’s an important question too, because the type of essay determines the focus, tone, and entire approach. So if you are applying to graduate school and the instructions include one or the other essay type, learn the difference so you can submit your strongest work.

What’s the difference?

Briefly, a personal statement looks back and a statement of purpose looks forward. The former asks you to tell a story about your background, while the latter asks you to explain your long-term goals in a specific discipline. While there may be some overlap (for instance, in both you’ll explain why you became interested in the field), the two types of essays serve fairly different purposes. An admissions officer will expect you to follow the university’s instructions, so knowing exactly what is asked of you will make a world of difference.

As a quick guide, we’ve put together the below infographic. Use it to understand the differences between personal statements and statements of purpose, and apply to your chosen program with confidence.

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