Chemistry Personal Statements for Graduate Schools

Although most undergraduates are fretting over acceptance letters1, there has been recent interest in personal statements2,3,4. Below is an outline of what I would consider a typical chemical personal statement. With slight modification, it can also be used as a general outline for all bright-eyed science undergraduate personal statements.

1st paragraph:

  • Why you are in science.
  • Why you enjoy chemistry.
  • Why this or that specific sub-field of chemistry is interesting to you.

Mouse in a beaker© Molly Kelly

2nd paragraph:

  • Your accomplishments in the chemical field (research experience, poster presentations).
  • Favorite experiment/class and why. A lot of details on why it’s your favorite.

3rd paragraph

  • Briefly discuss your volunteer work and/or outreach experience. (This may sound silly, but remember academic scientists are becoming more-and-more like bureaucrats and buzz words like that tend to ring well in their ears.)
  • List relevant clubs and organizations you belong to. If you were an officer, write about that.

4th paragraph

  • List how your skill-set/experience would be applicable to the institution you’re applying to.
  • List some professors you would like to work with.
  • Finish with some broad statement including the institution’s name.

In my personal opinion, personal statements should only be one page; you really should be able to summarize yourself that succinctly. If you have a blemish on your record, I’m not convinced it should be mentioned in a personal statement. Negative statements about yourself will stick out more than all your positive ones; so it’s upon you, to make sure your negatives are even worth discussing.

Addendum: From my P.I. Heino Nitsche

I am asking students requesting a letter of recommendation from me to send in electronic form (preferably WORD not PDF so that cut and paste is as easy as possible) the following material:

1. Newest unofficial transcript;

2. Updated resume, including honors, etc., and undergraduate research

3. Statement about their academic future;

4. List of anything good/volunteer work they have ever done;

5. List of Universities (including detailed addresses,points of
contact, and deadlines) they are applying to;

6. Pre-addressed and stamped envelopes for mailing of the

A very important point is that the recommendation that will take the least amount of time for me is the one which I will provide first, i.e,. the better the students prepare their case, the less effort I will have to write it. I usually ask the students to use the letter recommendation service of their university. This makes thing so much easier for me because I have to write only one letter and the rest is
taken care of by the service.

If you have further advice for the eager undergraduates, leave a comment. 😉



  1. In these situations, I find it productive to put on something frilly, like a short skirt and a halter top that’s just a bit revealing. Then, put on some of my favorite shade of lipstick, a little blue eyeshadow and paint my nails diner waitress red. Get some of my pumps on that make me a foot taller and those nylons I need to replace because they have one too many runs in them. Undo my hair, sit down, have a glass of my cheapest red wine, and get comfy, because nothing makes you feel more like a cheap whore than writing a resume to impress old white men.

  2. So you’ve done this before too. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Carbon-Based Curiosities » Blog Archive » On Getting Drunk on Someone Else’s Dollar

  4. You can have a perfect personal statement, but if there’s also a Youtube clip doing the rounds of you drunkenly showing your ass to the Queen no number of smart words will get you into your school of choice. Just a thought.


  5. It’s waaaaaay different over here.

  6. I wrote my personal statement on red construction paper with a blue crayon…..

  7. Does anyone have experience of using this graduate recruitment agency? Brampton Stafford Graduate Jobs I have been approached by one of their consultants regards a job, but I am fed up with having my time wasted by agencies.
    Any comments and advice appreciated.

  8. IMO Brampton Stafford aren’t that good – I have tried several times to apply for a job that they were advertising, and each time despite several phonecalls and e-mails from me they never seemed to be proactive in pushing candidates to the employer.

  9. Don’t use them. They just take your money and do nothing with it (or more likely they just spend it on food and lavish items) and then come back and tell you to pay them more money to “advertise” to more employers because the job market now is “very tough.” Scammers they are.

  10. Crystal Croom says:

    Do you write letters of recommendations for anyone that sends you their materials or just for you students?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *