Don’t assume that Yale Graduate School personal statement examples are the same as Yale Law School personal statement examples or those for any other program because each one must be tailored to a program’s specific requirements. There were close to 11,550 applications to Yale graduate school in a recent year for over 70 different programs, so crafting a personal statement that truly reflects your goals and motivations to enter graduate school should be a priority.
This article will feature Yale graduate school personal statement examples based on the requirements set forth by individual programs at Yale and end with a few tips on what to include and what not to include.
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Yale Graduate School Personal Statement Examples
Example 1. Yale School of Architecture PhD Program Personal Essay
Requirements: Must not exceed one page
The cross cast a long shadow on our living room floor in the morning. The day the war started, my mother had taped that cross onto the windows for practical reasons, not divine ones. The thinking was, if any Iraqi shells or rockets reached our neighborhood in Tehran, the tape would keep the glass from shattering into tiny pieces – at least, that was the hope.
I learned in my first year Building Construction class at the University of Waterloo that taping windows is wholly ineffective. Letting a window shatter into thousands of pieces is better than keeping large panes of glass together, which the tape does not do anyway. But when my mother taped our windows, it did have one positive effect – it made me feel protected.
I have many memories of the war, but that was the first, and it’s one I had not revisited until that class. When my engineering professor talked about how taping windows is ineffective, I felt singled out. He reactivated that memory in my mind, which I had not thought about for some time. It was then that I realized I wanted to contribute something to making people safe in their homes or wherever they are. I wanted to research what I could do to protect them, from war or any other disaster, natural or man-made.
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I would argue that an architect’s role in building and rebuilding is central to how a people, nation, or society recover from trauma. The multifaceted role of architecture in times of upheaval and disaster is something I feel the Ecosystems in Architectural Sciences track at the Yale School of Architecture perfectly encapsulates. The multidisciplinary approach of this track is akin to the way I’ve always approached and thought about architecture and is the ideal track for me to bring other disciplines into my research, like psychology and economics.
I entered the master’s program at Waterloo after completing my undergraduate degree and based my thesis on the intersectionality of architecture, politics, disaster recovery, and culture. My paper was titled, “The Shelter of Crosses: On the Need for Trauma-Informed Architecture.” It is based on research I conducted into how the chaos of the First World War influenced European architects and architecture. I argued that the resulting new world order influenced architecture in turn by creating new, never-before-seen spaces like resettlement camps or temporary housing for displaced peoples.
I have only scratched the surface of how architecture, trauma, history, and identity have played a role in the reconstruction of physical spaces. But if admitted to the Yale School of Architecture program, I hope to explore how the collective psyche of a scarred population, and that of the individual, are rebuilt through architecture. Throughout history, disasters have led to societies adapting, from the Great Fire of London to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal, and I feel like the Yale School of Architecture is the ideal place for me to pursue this type of investigation.
Example 2. Yale Department of Political Science PhD Program
My father was a principled, uncompromising man, and I’ve had a complicated relationship with his memory ever since he was killed. I was fourteen when he was murdered, and I remember my reaction to his death was pure anger – but anger toward him, not toward his killers. I understood why my father was killed. I knew what he was doing.
I understood how important he was to the copper miners he represented and, by extension, everyone else involved in legitimizing and supporting the socialist government of Salvador Allende. But I didn’t care about any of that. I wanted my father back, and I was angrier that he kept organizing strikes and protests, even after his life was threatened. I developed a deep-seated hatred toward any kind of activism or political action and decided to stay resolutely apolitical for the rest of my life.
After he was killed, my mother, my brothers, and my uncle, Patricio, all left Santiago for Lima, where we lived for two years until my family emigrated to Newark. My uncle continued with us to the US, and I was grateful for his presence, as he helped me process the trauma and anger I felt toward my father for letting his principles take priority over taking care of us, his family.
Patricio became a union steward at the local GM assembly plant where he worked. My uncle took me along to United Auto Workers meetings, whenever their collective bargaining agreement would be renegotiated. But I was still hesitant about taking up my family’s mantle of political action and organizing. Despite my hesitations, I spent summers working on the assembly line, even though I had at that point decided to go to law school.
I chose criminology as my undergraduate major at Rutgers and began taking pre-law courses in philosophy, political science, and sociology, still thinking my future lay in fighting for and protecting worker’s rights, even though I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted. One of my sociology professors, Richard Helms, had also spent time as a labor organizer in Mexico, helping workers in the maquiladoras that sprung up in Northern Mexico post-NAFTA organize.
Professor Richard Helms was a die-hard believer in unions and collective bargaining, and he showed some of the same ferocity and uncompromising ideals as my father. Professor Helms encouraged me to apply to law school, but it was Professor Helms who also indirectly led me away from activism. While he was taking an active role in helping support workers at Rutgers unionize, when I went to one of their meetings, I recoiled at his demagoguery. I did not have the same radical views or desires, and I realized that apoliticism suited me fine. I had no desire to follow in my father’s, uncle’s, or Professor Helms’ footsteps.
That’s why political science holds so much sway with me. It is the analysis of policy and politics, not the propagation or advocacy of a particular belief system or theory. Neither is it the art of politicking, even though it influences that sphere. Of course, many political scientists do have political leanings, but as with all the sciences, data and analysis take primacy.
After I graduated from Rutgers, I applied for and was accepted into the International Development and Economics program here at Yale. But I had to take summer courses in microeconomics and macroeconomics to bolster my economics training while also taking multivariate calculus, probability, and statistics courses to strengthen my analytical skills.
My interest in the Political Science PhD program at Yale has more to do with finding my own path in the realm of politics, and the numerous opportunities for graduates of the program also appeal to me. I am not ashamed or resentful of my father for who he was, but I know that I would be doing a disservice to both him and myself if I continued on a path made by someone else, for someone else.
Applying to Yale Graduate School
The first thing you should know about what to write about in your Yale graduate school personal statement is that not all graduate departments at Yale require them. The Yale Graduate School uses a centralized, online portal that all applicants, regardless of their program, must use to submit their application, similar to the way students applying to medical school use the AMCAS and AACOMAS services and must submit an AMCAS personal statement or read AACOMAS personal statement examples so that they can write and submit one with their main application.
Applicants specify on their application what program they are applying to and submit the necessary documentation, which includes the following:
- A statement of purpose
- Unofficial transcripts from all your previous colleges or universities
- Three letters of recommendation
- GRE test scores (program dependent)
- CV or resume
The statement of purpose is mandatory for all programs, so you should review statement of purpose examples for graduate school to guide you when writing your own, but you should also know that all applicants must write their statement in response to the same prompt, as follows:
“Describe your research interests and preparation for your intended field(s) of study, including prior research and other relevant experiences. Explain how the faculty, research, and resources at Yale would contribute to your future goals.”
The required length of your statement of purpose is between 500–1000 words. You should also note that the statement of purpose does not fulfill any other personal statement requirements for the program you are applying to – if they even ask you for a separate essay. If your program does require a personal statement or graduate school cover letters, you must submit them as well.
Many programs require writing samples that are not necessarily personal statements. For example, the Department of Classics PhD program in Classical Philology asks for a writing sample between 10–15 pages, while applicants to the combined Classics and History PhD program are asked to write a two-page book review on any text that has shaped their academic interests.
Similarly, the PhD program in English asks applicants to submit writing samples of similar length that exemplify a student’s “best writing in a literary critical mode.” This writing sample is required, in addition to a separate personal statement, in which the applicant explains their motivation for pursuing a PhD in English at Yale.
How To Structure Your Yale Graduate Personal Statement
If you must submit a personal statement to a graduate-level program at Yale, you can follow a very basic format and structure for personal statements to help you. But, again, you should always adhere to the formal requirements specified by the program on its website or in any official school handbooks or catalogs.
The structure suggested here is only a blueprint for your own statement, and if the program you are applying to does not have any specific requirements to follow, you can use this guide to help you craft your personal statement. Knowing how to write a myriad of different letters is a skill many people learn when figuring out how to get into grad school, as applying to grad school requires a lot of written documentation.
You should know how to write a personal statement, but to increase your chances of getting accepted, you should also know how to write an effective statement of intent, how to write a master’s thesis proposal, and how to write a CV for grad school, as a CV is one of the mandatory application requirements when applying to a Yale graduate program.
1. Start with a Story
A good opening is essential to any written piece of work, and you should apply the same thinking to your personal statement. The opening paragraph of your personal statement should include things about you that are not seen on your official transcripts, like your motivation to pursue a graduate degree and what events from your past led to your present.
Inviting the reader to keep reading is the goal of your introduction, so start with something evocative and emotional. You can talk about your childhood and upbringing if it has any bearing on your academic career and professional interests. You can talk about any inciting incident that made you realize you wanted to pursue this field and career and then transition to your accomplishments thus far in this particular field of study.
2. Show, Don’t Tell
You should devote a few paragraphs in the middle section of your personal statement to detailing what you’ve accomplished academically, professionally, or non-professionally. After explaining your motivations and writing about your personal history, you should demonstrate specific instances when you excelled, whether it was winning an academic prize or contributing to a research project or to a published paper.
3. Talk about the Future
After you’ve talked about what you’ve accomplished academically and professionally, you can discuss what you still want to accomplish in your field of study. You can present particular research goals or investigative questions that you feel are lacking in scholarship. Your concluding paragraph is also where you should talk about the program specifically and how it, unlike any other, can help you further your academic pursuits, while stating how you can contribute positively to the program.
Yale Graduate school personal statement examples are necessary for entry into any of the Ivy League schools’ many master’s and PhD-level courses. Every program has its own requirements, while some do not even require that you submit a statement. If your program does ask for a personal statement, you can follow a standard personal statement outline unless the program has its own requirements, which you should always follow.
1. What is different about writing a personal statement for Yale Graduate School?
Depending on the program, you could submit a standard personal statement (one or two pages, between 500 and 750 words) or one that responds to a specific prompt or question. But you may not even have to submit one, although the school does require that all applicants write a statement of purpose.
2. What is the difference between a personal statement and a statement of purpose?
A personal statement is a letter or essay that showcases your motivations and goals when applying to an undergraduate, graduate, law, or medical program. A statement of purpose, which is a mandatory application requirement for all applicants to Yale Graduate School is where you’ll outline your research interests and what you hope to achieve academically if you are admitted, so you should review research interest statement samples to know how to write one.
3. What should I include in my Yale graduate school personal statement?
You can include autobiographical information (hometown, family members) that relates to your academic pursuits, as well as anything relevant to your intellectual progression. You can write about obstacles you’ve had to overcome to complete your education as well as personal experiences, but only if they relate to your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree, which is somewhat similar to what to include in medical school personal statements.
4. What should I not include in my Yale graduate school personal statement?
You should not overindulge in describing incidents that have no bearing on your academic career. You should also avoid general, cliched statements that are often overused in personal statements, like “I’ve always wanted to be...” or “I enjoy writing and researching.” Humor is also a tricky subject, as a graduate school application requires more seriousness and formality.
5. Do I need to write a Yale graduate school personal statement?
It depends on the program. All applicants to the graduate school must write a statement of purpose outlining their research history and goals, but a personal statement can be an optional requirement based on the program. You may be asked to write one or not.
6. How long should my personal statement be?
If you are required to submit an additional writing sample, like a personal statement, you should keep it as short as possible (one page, maximum 750 words).
7. Is Yale Graduate School a good school?
Yale University, and all of its attendant schools and colleges, is one of the best Ivy League schools in the US, but it is also not one of the easiest Ivy League schools to get into. If you are wondering how to help your child get into an Ivy League school, Yale is a very competitive school, as it admits only 4.6% of applicants every year.
8. What else do I need to get into Yale Graduate School?
The school requires all applicants to submit: 1) a statement of purpose; 2) unofficial transcripts; 3) three letters of recommendation; and 4) a resume or CV. You may also need to submit GRE or other standardized test scores, but it depends on the program.
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