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Personal Statement vs Statement of Purpose

Statement of purpose vs personal statement? When to write which one? Are you applying for business schools, university programs or scholarships? Colleges can ask to provide either a personal statement or a statement of purpose on top of your resume or CV. Sometimes the school even asks to write both. When this happens, you may have already wondered what the difference between both documents really is, and what to include in which.

In this blog article you will learn:

  • The similarities between a personal statement and a statement of purpose
  • The difference between a personal statement vs statement of purpose
  • What to include in a personal statement
  • What to include in a statement of purpose   

In both cases, allow them to get to know you

When writing either a personal statement or a statement of purpose, the recruiters will also have your CV or resume. That is why you should avoid formally listing experiences or mentioning names of schools or companies. This would be a waste of space as recruiters can read all about that in your resume.

For both the personal statement and the statement of purpose, you should talk about your previous education and experience that makes you a strong candidate for the program. You should also always mention what you are looking for in terms of professional goals, and how this specific program will help you in achieving these goals.


Personal Statement

Schools will ask you to write a personal statement for undergraduate programs or scholarship applications. This already tells you something. Recruiters don’t expect you to have a lot of professional experience.

Focus on your previous education. This means courses you took, projects you were on and extracurricular activities you engaged in. Clearly explain how those have shaped you and prepared you for this new program you target. Then move on to the part where you outline your professional ambitions and link back to how the program or degree you now pursue will help you get there.   

There is usually a word limit around 250-400 words. To be sure, have a look at the application requirements. You will find other indications of what is expected in the personal statement.

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Statement of Purpose

When applying for a graduate program, post-grad education or a hands-on business school degree, you’ll write an SOP usually. They’ll expect more professional experience, and this should be reflected in your written document.

The statement of purpose is much more detailed than the personal statement. You can elaborate on more examples of the experience and aspirations you may have. And you usually get between one and two pages to do so. Take a look at the actual application requirements and questions to be sure.

For the statement of purpose, focus on your professional experience. Think about the projects you have done and the research you may have conducted. Then tell them how this makes you a strong candidate. Afterwards, elaborate on how the program or degree will help you thrive in the professional world. Essentially, you are trying to convince the academic recruiters that you “mean business”. They need to be convinced that you, after graduating, will be successful on the job market.

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