usc mba personal statement

How to Write a Stand-Out Personal Statement for Your Graduate School Application

How to write a personal statement for grad school

While deciding to embark on the path to graduate school is an exciting first step toward advancing your career, the application process can sometimes feel daunting and confusing.

One major part of the application that most schools require is a personal statement. Writing a personal statement can be an arduous task: After all, most people don’t necessarily enjoy writing about themselves, let alone at length.

A compelling personal statement, however, can help bring your application to the top of the admissions pile. Below, we’ve outlined what you need to know about crafting a personal statement to make your application shine.

What Is a Personal Statement?

The point of a personal statement is for the admissions board to gain a deeper understanding of who you are apart from your education and work experience. It explains why you’re the right fit for the program and a worthwhile applicant. It’s also an opportunity to highlight important factors that may not be readily available in the rest of your application.

A personal statement is different from a statement of purpose (if you’re asked for that as well). A statement of purpose will touch on your academic and career goals, as well as your past credentials. While those should also be discussed in your personal statement, it’s more about your life experiences and how they’ve shaped you and your journey to graduate school.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Personal Statement

Before you start crafting your essay, there are a few prompts you can ask yourself to help clarify what you want to accomplish.

Top Tips for Writing a Graduate School Personal Statement

Pick a few points to emphasize about yourself . Introduce yourself to the admissions board. Select key factors about your background that you want the university to know — elements that reveal what kind of person you are and demonstrate why you’re a strong candidate for the school and field of study.

Be very specific . Again, a personal statement is all about communicating what distinguishes you from other applicants. To accomplish that, you need to share specific anecdotes that underscore your statements. If you say you’re a strong leader, present an example of a time you’ve proven that skill through work, school or your personal life. These specific, personal stories provide a deeper understanding of who you are and prove your intentions.

Do your research . Demonstrate what attracted you to the program. If there is a specific faculty member or class that caught your attention, or another aspect of the program that greatly interests you, convey it. This shows you’ve truly researched the school and have a passion for the program.

“Whatever the topic may be, I would recommend writing in a manner that reflects or parallels the institution’s and/or department’s missions, goals and values,” said Moises Cortés, a graduate/international credentials analyst for the Office of Graduate Admission at USC .

Address any gaps or discrepancies . Explain any factors that may have impacted your academic career. If you had an illness or any other personal hardships that affected your grades or work, discuss them. If there is a discrepancy between your grades and your test scores, you can also take the time to go over any extenuating circumstances.

Strike the right tone . While it’s important to give readers a glimpse of your personality, avoid oversharing or revealing intimate details of your life experiences. You should also avoid making jokes or using humorous cliches. Maintain a professional tone throughout your writing.

Start strong and finish strong . As with any piece of writing, you want to draw in your readers immediately. Make sure to start off with an interesting and captivating introduction. Similarly, your conclusion should be a well-written, engaging finish to the essay that highlights any important points.

“ For a personal statement, I think the first and last paragraphs are most important and should always relate the program they are applying to their own experiences and ideas,” Hoon H. Kang, a graduate/international credential analyst with the Office of Graduate Admission, told USC Online.

Proofread, proofread and proofread again . We can’t emphasize enough the importance of rereading your work. Your personal statement is also an analysis of your writing skills, so ensure you have proper grammar and spelling throughout. In addition, we recommend having multiple people look over your statement before submission. They can help with the proofreading (a second person always catches a mistake the writer may miss), give advice about the statement’s structure and content, and confirm it’s the proper recommended length.

Once you’ve considered all of the above and reviewed and edited your personal statement to perfection, it’s time to submit and check off any remaining application requirements, including your resume and letters of recommendation .

Personal statements are arguably one of the most challenging aspects of applying to graduate school, so make sure to revel in this accomplishment and acknowledge your successes.

For more information, visit the  Office of Graduate Admission at USC  and explore  USC Online ’s master’s degrees, doctoral programs and graduate certificates.

MBA Programs

USC Marshall has a world-class faculty of leading scholarly researchers and noted practitioners, all of whom make it their business to help you attain your goals. Whether it’s helping you get your head around big data or making that critical professional introduction, USC Marshall’s faculty play a key role in your MBA transformation.

Full-Time MBA

Traditional 2-year MBA Program designed to provide core business building blocks with the opportunity for specialization.

- 20-months term - Early-career professionals - Classes meet at University Park Campus (UPC) in Los Angeles

Executive MBA Program

This 22-month lock-step curriculum is designed to provide a deep generalist perspective for senior managers.

- 22-month program - Middle-to-senior level managers

Part-Time MBA

3-year part-time MBA Program designed for those who are fully-employed. Coursework combines core business curriculum with broad range of specialized electives.

- 33-month program - Early-career professionals and managers - Classes meet at University Park Campus (UPC) in Los Angeles

International MBA

1-year, accelerated, general management MBA Program for mid-career professionals. Global management skills enhanced through experienced participants from over 15 countries.

- 12-months program - Mid-level professionals and managers - Classes meet at University Park Campus (UPC) in Los Angeles

The USC Marshall Online MBA offers flexibility, an integrated curriculum, and a full range of technological learning tools that create an engaging online experience and provide students with advanced skills for the digital age.

- 21-month program - Early- and mid-career professionals and managers - Synchronous and asynchronous online classes with a one-week residential intensive in Los Angeles at the start of the program


The trojan network.

The USC Marshall experience offers lifelong access to the business world’s premiere connector and accelerator for career success. Decades of intense commitment to the advancement of the Trojan brand have created an unrivaled professional edge.

329 Days of Sunshine Per Year

Since its earliest days, Los Angeles has been a center for innovation and creativity, an outpost on the edge of an ocean that invited dreamers to try and make their dreams a reality.  Los Angeles encompasses 4,000 square miles, stretching from the Pacific Coast eastward to Mt. Baldy (10,000 feet high) to parts of the Mojave Desert. The county contains 88 incorporated cities and many unincorporated communities.

Global Opportunities

Located in one of the world’s leading business centers and the gateway to the Pacific Rim, USC is among the very best, most global universities in the U.S. — and no part of USC is more global than Marshall. 

Our diverse and international community creates an exciting atmosphere of learning and discourse. Marshall has made considerable investments in programs, centers, research, experiences, and intellectual capital to broaden student perspectives and career pathways.

Silicon Beach

L.A. is on fire as a nationally important tech hub. New media streamers and apps like Tinder and Snapchat have chosen to headquarter in “Silicon Beach” as investors are following the talent. VC firms established in LA include Upfront Ventures, 500 Startups and Greycroft Partners.

Biotech Beach

San Diego, just down the road from Los Angeles County, is perhaps better known for biotechnology. But Los Angeles is poised to become a contender, with its leading research universities, top clinical and research hospitals, manufacturing base, massive port and venture capital presence. USC is leading the way.


Revolutionizing the rails.

Alex Peiffer’s MBA ’20 startup aims to revolutionize logistics with an autonomous, zero-emissions rail car.

As a kid in Fostoria, a rail town in Northwest Ohio, Alex Peiffer MBA ’20 never could have guessed he’d find himself on the cutting edge of railway technology and logistics decades later.

But today he is the co-founder and COO of a startup that is developing an autonomous electric rail car.

While he was an MBA student at USC Marshall, Peiffer and his co-founders, Tim Luchini and Corey Vasel, formerly of Boeing, came up with the idea of Intramotev—which launched in 2020. At a time when supply chain snarls are top news and zero emissions an environmental priority, Intramotev is on track to revolutionize the nation’s vast railway system.

The Expert Source

EMBA alumnus Nick Toso ’19 creates new service connecting busy journalists with the right expert—on deadline.

One Marshall EMBA's Path to a Bright Future

Sean Vasquez is bringing business insights back home to his Pechanga community.

How to 'ASE' Your MBA

For all her many accomplishments, Alganesh Tamyalew MBA ’22, says it’s the journey, not the outcome that is most important.


USC Marshall has 40 graduate student organizations. Ranging from community outreach, diversity and affinity groups, career clubs, and social and athletic organizations, students are able to expand their network to other USC Marshall MBA graduate programs and corporate contacts. Club activities take place during the day, evenings and weekends, and can include networking opportunities, social events and company visits.



Black graduate business leaders.

BGBL is dedicated to assisting Marshall Graduate students of African descent become successful leaders in academia and business. BGBL strives to strengthen the economic, intellectual, and cultural wealth of the black community.

Business of Entertainment Association

BEA supports Marshall graduate students to achieve professional goals in the business of media and entertainment.

Challenge for Charity

Our Mission; strenghten the bonds of our Marshallcommunity, give back to our greater community, inspire continued service post- MBA.

2 MBA Admissions Essays That Worked

These outstanding MBA personal statements resulted in admissions offers.

2 MBA Essays That Worked

usc mba personal statement

MBA admissions officials say they prefer personal statements that convey personality and demonstrate grit. (Getty Images)

There is no secret formula to writing a compelling personal statement for an MBA application, university admissions officials say.

The key, they say, is to write a statement that feels authentic and makes your case.

Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean for admissions at the Yale University School of Management , is wary of personal statements that tell dramatic stories and stretch the truth. He says he is not looking for students to have exotic experiences, but for evidence of resilience, introspection and initiative.

Yale's business school recruits students identified as unselfish leaders – those who strive to improve the circumstances of others and help themselves rather than those who exploit others for personal gain, DelMonico says.

"We are looking to bring in students who will be inclusive leaders and who will bring people together," DelMonico says.

William Rieth, former senior director with the Fox School of Business at Temple University , says applicants sometimes struggle to write a memorable personal statement, but being memorable is vital.

"Students need to remember their audience," he says. "Schools are reading thousands of essays."

He says a solid personal statement requires a "compelling story" and an honest writing voice. "It should reflect your personality and sound like you."

How to Write an MBA Application Essay: A Few Tips

MBA admissions experts say a business school application essay should offer a convincing argument about why a candidate belongs in an MBA program at that particular school.

Wayne Hutchison, managing director for the MBA program at Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business , urges prospective MBA students to explain their reasons for applying to B-school and to describe whatever incidents spurred their interest in graduate business education.

"In addition, applicants should discuss the skills and abilities they have that will translate to academic and professional success," Hutchison wrote in an email, noting that failing to include this information can lead admissions officers to question an MBA hopeful's competitiveness.

Aaron Burch, who earned his MBA degree from the University of Texas—Austin's McCombs School of Business , says MBA essays should address the following questions:

Burch, owner of – a website that provides information about shipping container houses – suggests that MBA students convey that they are at a point in their careers where they can "pivot without being pigeonholed" while having meaningful accomplishments, including "real responsibility."

It's also essential for MBA candidates to showcase what they have to offer a B-school, Burch wrote in an email. "You want to demonstrate that you're not just a taker and you want to add to the prestige and reputation of the school, add to the experience your future classmates will have, etc."

MBA alumni say it's crucial for prospective MBA students to describe how they intend to use an MBA .

"Admissions officers will want to understand your vision behind why an MBA might help you, so it's incumbent upon you to articulate the plan you have for yourself, and how their institution is going to help your journey," MBA degree recipient Taylor Constantine – the partner channel lead with Rain, a financial services company – wrote in an email.

Margo Bell, senior assistant director of admissions with Pepperdine University's Graziadio Business School in California, notes that MBA essays are influential factors in the MBA admissions process. Application essays help B-school admissions committees gauge the compatibility of a prospective student with the culture and values of the institution.

"As applicants begin to write their MBA applicant essays, it’s important for prospective students to share who they are as an individual," Bell wrote in an email. "The essay allows MBA admission officers to get a better understanding of who you are, what you wish to accomplish and why you deserve to be accepted."

Michal Strahilevitz, associate professor of marketing with St. Mary's College of California , advises MBA applicants to view the application essay as an opportunity to provide context for deficits in their admissions profile. "For example, if your undergraduate grades were not great because you worked full time to pay for school, write about it," Strahilevitz explained in an email.

What to Keep in Mind About MBA Essay Prompts

MBA admissions consultants note that business schools often have distinctive essay prompts, so it's important for applicants to tailor their essay to every school where they apply.

"Each school asks a specific question in the essay, and one of the most important things you can do as an applicant is to answer that question – not the question you wished we asked or the one you want to answer," DelMonico wrote in an email. "The various elements of the application fit together, and we’re looking to get very specific pieces of information from the essay. So please follow the essay instructions you’re given and don’t feel as though you need to or should make the essay broader in scope."

Barbara Coward, founder of the MBA 360° Admissions Consulting firm based in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, notes that the first step in the essay writing process should be meticulously reading the question prompt. Think about the question for a few days while going about routine tasks so that ideas can "marinate."

Coward says that once prospective students have decided what they'd like to write about, they should let the words flow without filtering them because too much self-editing at the beginning of the creative process can interfere with productivity. Revisions and tweaks can come after an applicant has fully expressed his or her ideas.

Admissions experts note that MBA hopefuls who are struggling to figure out how to describe themselves may want to ask friends and family for advice. Prospective MBA students can also gain self-awareness by keeping a diary or creating a storyboard of their life.

Mistakes to Avoid in MBA Admission Essays

Taking too long to express the main idea or central thesis of an essay is a no-no, Coward says. Applicants should directly respond to a question and ensure that their essay is easily understood by an admissions officer. "Keep in mind that somebody is not reading a novel," she says. "They're going to be glancing through."

Excessively verbose essays don't make a good impression, Coward adds. Applicants should respect word limits and be concise, because doing otherwise creates extra work for admissions officers under time pressure, she explains.

Two other errors to avoid in MBA essays, Coward says, are being monotonous or melodramatic . It's important to have an introductory sentence that strikes the right tone, she adds. "You're not trying to create drama, but you don't want to put the person to sleep either," Coward says.

Examples of Outstanding MBA Essays

Here are two MBA essays that made the cut. The first is from the Fox School of Business and the second is from Yale. These essays are annotated with comments that explain why the essays charmed admissions committees.

Searching for a business school? Get our complete rankings of Best Business Schools .

Tags: graduate schools , business school , MBAs , students

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USC Marshall MBA Essays: Tips for 2022-2023

USC Marshall MBA Essays 2022-2023 — MBA Essay prompts for University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business

If you are looking for guidance on how to write successful MBA essays for University of Southern California, you are in the right place. The USC Marshall MBA application can be difficult and time-consuming, but with these tips and tricks, you can be more confident about one of the biggest parts of your application: the MBA essays. This article will cover how to compose USC MBA essays that will fit the criteria for admissions and hopefully earn you a place in USC Marshall’s graduating class of 2025.

At Menlo Coaching, we noticed that most MBA essays will fall into one of a number of categories: personal essays, career goals essays, behavioral essays, etc. Read ahead for our expert guide on approaching these essays for USC Marshall School of Business.

Career Goals Essay

Dear Admissions Committee Essay

This letter is meant to be your personal statement that provides the Admissions Committee with an understanding of your candidacy for Marshall beyond what is evident in other parts of your application. This essay is purposely open-ended. You are free to express yourself in whatever way you see fit. Our goal is to have an appreciation for and an understanding of each candidate in ways that are not captured by test scores, grades, and resumes. 

Optional Essay

Applying to USC Marshall School of Business

USC Marshall is a prestigious business school with renowned faculty and a focus on academic success. USC wants to admit students who are intelligent, determined, and prepared to undertake a rigorous curriculum. Further, USC has a strong networking community especially in Los Angeles, known as the “Trojan family.” Thus, Marshall MBA graduates will have some aid in the community when trying to enter the job market. Applicants should pay attention to the specific requirements and expectations set out by USC’s admissions committee when writing USC MBA essays. Through these MBA essays, applicants have a chance to demonstrate their skills, accomplishments, and personal interests.

Marshall’s Career Goals Essay 

The USC Marshall career goals essay provides applicants with a place to let the USC admissions committee know how the MBA program you want to attend will help you achieve your professional goals, including an intended position, function, and industry. This USC MBA essay is a great place to explain why USC is truly the best fit for you. 

It is vital for USC applicants to have a solid plan for their post-MBA career aspirations. First and foremost, this is because USC wants its graduates to succeed. However, there are a few selfish motivations for the career goals essay, including the fact that USC wants to have an impressive employment report and produce graduates who will become donors someday. Further, the USC Marshall admissions committee wants to ensure that applicants have a career plan that plays on their past experiences and thus ensures success. They also want applicants with the foresight to develop an alternate career plan in case their first choice does not work out. 

Other things to keep in mind for this essay is the necessity to have a career goal that is both ambitious and practical. Applicants should have meaningful goals that fit with what is offered at USC’s MBA program. Along this vein, networking is extremely important when preparing to write your career goals essay. The more you know about the program and how it can help you achieve your personal goals, the better.

Marshall’s “Dear Admissions Codmmittee” Essay

The USC MBA essay is a hallmark of USC Marshall’s MBA application. Writing this genre of MBA essay may involve divulging information about the core values, morals, and passions that guide your behavior and motivate your decision to apply to Marshall. USC’s MBA admissions committee wants to know more about the actual people to which they are offering admissions, because each applicant is more than their transcript and resume. 

USC Marshall’s admissions committee wants applicants to provide information about personal relationships, hardships, and other individualizing information in this USC MBA essay. It is important to provide concrete examples to demonstrate how your values have influenced you in different areas of your life. Further, USC wants applicants to demonstrate leadership skills and articulate their reasons for wanting an MBA at USC. 

When writing this USC MBA essay, you should keep in mind that it is important to be open and let your personality shine through, with an engaging story told with an authentic voice for example. Therefore, as long as you are true to yourself, your USC MBA essay will be a success. 

Once you’ve completed your application, the optional UNC MBA essay gives you an additional opportunity to provide the AdCom with any additional information or clarity that you feel would enhance your application.

One trap that MBA applicants fall into is using the additional space provided by this essay to write on a whole new topic. However, this is not always the best idea.

You should only make use of this essay if you what you write will provide context to an element of your application to improve your candidacy—you don’t want to jeopardize your chances by adding unnecessary noise to your application.

Applicants to USC Marshall should pay close attention to the specific expectations for each type of USC MBA essay. USC Marshall also has an additional USC MBA essay option where applicants can provide any other information they would like the admissions committee to consider. Although it may be tempting to look up sample essays and draw from these formats, it is most important to let your personal background guide the construction of your USC MBA essays. Menlo Coaching can help you throughout your MBA essay writing process, offering one-on-one coaching and exclusive materials.

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  1. Personal Statements for Graduate School

    For the purpose of a personal statement, you want to make it clear that you have improved specific skills in specific situations. This tells admissions counselors that you’ll be able to do the same once you get to graduate school. Throughout, incorporate how that particular graduate school will help you achieve your goals.

  2. How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad ...

    “ For a personal statement, I think the first and last paragraphs are most important and should always relate the program they are applying to their own experiences and ideas,” Hoon H. Kang, a graduate/international credential analyst with the Office of Graduate Admission, told USC Online. Proofread, proofread and proofread again.

  3. Full-Time MBA (FTMBA)

    The USC Marshall MBA program is committed to transformative learning, a culture of inclusion, collegiality, cooperation, and team work. The Program is designed to allow students to discover and develop their personal strengths, build core business knowledge, sharpen analytical and critical thinking skills, and lead high performing teams.

  4. Graduate Programs

    MBA Programs USC Marshall has a world-class faculty of leading scholarly researchers and noted practitioners, all of whom make it their business to help you attain your goals. Whether it’s helping you get your head around big data or making that critical professional introduction, USC Marshall’s faculty play a key role in your MBA transformation.

  5. 2 MBA Admissions Essays That Worked

    2 MBA Essays That Worked More MBA admissions officials say they prefer personal statements that convey personality and demonstrate grit. (Getty Images) There is no secret formula to writing...

  6. USC Marshall MBA Essays: Tips for 2022-2023

    The USC MBA essay is a hallmark of USC Marshall’s MBA application. Writing this genre of MBA essay may involve divulging information about the core values, morals, and passions that guide your behavior and motivate your decision to apply to Marshall.