I am applying to biomedical science PhD programs and have been working on personal statements for a while now. Many of the programs seem to have a very similar lineup with how they want the statement to look. However, they're usually ordered around a little differently.

I've found that there's a very good flow to my statement by starting with what influenced me (e.g. school/past research/etc.), current interests/faculty I want to work, career goals, research XP, and a closing statement that's usually geared toward why the school is a good fit. While this structure always varies between schools, I feel it's best done in how I sort of described here. Every now and then, a school is like "tell us why you like the school, tell us research experiences, tell us what motivated you, then tell us faculty you want and what you learned from research." This is sometimes hard to follow and ends up making my statement structure awkward.

Is it okay to not answer the personal statement points always in the order that they list the "points to consider including?"


2 Answers 2


Does it look something like the following?

Please include information on

  • motivation
  • experience
  • Why this school?
  • ...

If yes, I wouldn't worry about the order.
If, on the other hand, it is more like

Please include the following information in that order:

  1. motivation
  2. experience
  3. Why this school?
  4. ...

then of course you should do that. However, I think it is rather uncommon to demand a fixed order, are you sure they want that?


There is a tradeoff here that you need to consider. How it balances might depend in part on the field of the application. At one end of the scale is a sort of checklist of points. At the other is a literary exposition. If your field were Creative Writing then you want to show how well you can write. For a more technical field the balance point moves the other way, but not to the extreme.

The one thing you want to avoid is a reader of your statement wondering after reading it if you have covered everything that that particular person wants to know. And also note that the person will spend very little time reading your application and is unlikely to want to re-read it.

Since your field is at the more pedantic rather than literary end of the scale, keep that in mind. And make sure that if you write a better essay then the points are somehow clearly delineated within it. It needn't be the same order, but, something. One way would be to use their own specific wording: motivation, experience etc.

Cover the points. Make it obvious that you have. Make it obvious to a person with little time to spend.

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