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Personal Statement

writing a personal Statement (Statement of purpose)

Your personal statement (also called a statement of purpose) is an essential component of your application to the graduate program in history at UGA. This short document serves multiple purposes. In it, you:

  • Introduce yourself;
  • Explain what "sparked" your interest to pursue graduate study in history;
  • Showcase your academic background;
  • Describe your specific academic goals while in graduate school; and
  • Align your academic interests with our graduate program.

Before beginning your statement, you might want to free write answers to the following questions (courtesy of the AHA): "Why do I want to pursue a graduate degree in history? What do I want to study? Academically, how well prepared am I for graduate study?" Our faculty are looking for applicants who have a clear sense of purpose and can demonstrate a strong commitment to their chosen area of study.

All good statements will highlight your academic and research experiences, and how these experiences will help you while in graduate school; your specific academic interests and career goals, including your proposed research project while in graduate school, any specific disciplinary subfields (e.g., museum studies or Latin American and Caribbean Studies), and your professional objectives after graduate school; and your specific fit with our program, including faculty you would like to work with and why and how your research interests fit with their own intellectual trajectories.

They will also be succinct and well-written. Make sure you adhere to the page and/or word limit. Proofread and edit your statement multiple times. Our program has a 2-page, single-spaced maximum limit for the personal statement.

We suggest you follow the department of history at the University of Alabama's guidance when structuring your statement. It should include:

  1. An introduction. This is less personal autobiography and more a brief explanation of why and how you became interested in historical research.
  2. A brief summary of your undergraduate and (if applicable) previous graduate career. This summary should be about your academic and intellectual trajectory (how you got to be interested in your current project) and any projects undertaken (undergraduate or MA thesis) and specific skills acquired during that time (including research, language, and programming skills).
  3. A discussion of your recent/current activities. Here, you can elaborate on what you have included in your CV. Remember to connect your activities to your academic and intellectual goals.
  4. An explanation of your academic interests and plans for graduate study. This section, the longest part of the essay, should be two to three paragraphs long. Our admissions committee wants to know what you would like to study while in graduate school. Convince us that you have a viable research project that you can complete while in our program.
    • UA's Department of History succinctly outlines what you should include in this section: "First indicate the area of your interests — describe the place and period you want to study and what kinds of broad questions you wish to explore. It is often a good idea to indicate which scholars’ work you admire, or what approaches to historical research interest you most. Next explain precisely what you want to research and what specific questions are shaping your project. PhD applicants should describe the project they wish to undertake for their dissertation." MA applicants can describe specific projects as well.
    • The last section of the essay should describe "fit": why are you good for our program and why is our program good for you? Rather than simply listing faculty names with whom you want to work, explain why their approaches, methods, topics fit with your own academic goals. Remember to highlight what you will bring to our program, whether that's a new perspective or new skills.

Additional Resources:

AHA, Resources for Graduate Students (see their Admissions section)

Paul Boyer (AHA), "Graduate Applications: The Important Elements"

Emily Elia, (Rice University), "Grad School 101: Writing the Personal Statement"

National Council on Public History, "Writing the Personal Statement"

Princeton University Department of History, Example Statements

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