I'm so confused. I can't distinguish between them. It seems to me that sometimes the statement of purpose (SOP) is the personal statement (PS), sometimes it is not the PS, and by the definition I'll give below, academic statement (AS) is the SOP.

Is the SOP a PS (or not)?

I think most people will agree that the SOP is another name for the PS, and you only need one statement beside your CV and research proposal (if necessary) to be written. That explains why in Academia.SE, we only have a tag but no PS tag or AS tag. And most of the time I see people ask about a PS question under the SOP tag, and accept the answer only says about the SOP. Except these two questions, where the posters notice that SOP is not the PS (I find them when searching for "personal statement" "statement of purpose"):

To be clear, the first question asks about academic statement of purpose and only localize to the NSF Fellowship application. But the (sole) answer only discusses the SOP, so I understand that ASOP is the other name of the SOP (don't know if it also be the AS as well).

Is the SOP the Academic Statement?

Now, in the announcement for a fellowship I intend to apply for, it requires me to have both an academic statement and a personal statement. It defines them like this:

ACADEMIC AND PERSONAL STATEMENTS. Each applicant must prepare a one-page Academic Statement and a one-page Personal Statement. The first essay addresses the applicant’s academic and scientific background and preparation, previous research, and a description of the study and research proposed at a U.S. graduate school department. The Personal Statement includes information about the applicant’s background, practical experience, special interests, and career goals, with some attention to plans after degree completion. Applicants should also address how they might represent Vietnam as students in the United States and how they might represent the United States and contribute to Vietnam upon return.

More explicit details are provided in the link. Based on the definition of the AS, I think that it is the SOP as we widely know (or at least is this SOP). If then, what is the PS in this case? Is it the place for the "my first trembling steps" stuff?

Or, does the aggregation of AS and PS in this situation equate the SOP as we widely know, and the recruiters just want to make it explicit?

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    No. There is no place for "my first trembling steps" stuff.
    – JeffE
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 19:28
  • 5
    It's kinda weak. What they're really asking for is your technical background, your technical experience, your specific technical interests. They're asking for direct evidence that you are prepared to do research, not so much why you find it personally fulfilling.
    – JeffE
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 23:56
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    @JeffE Because the personal statement asks for applicant's background, special interest and career goals (note that technical background is already mentioned in the academic statement). I think that the are personal stuff. PS: I know that you have patiently answer me from time to time about this, and I appreciate that.
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 0:04
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    I don't understand. Why the downvotes? I have put my effort to make the question as clear as possible.
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 7:31
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    I agree that the downvotes are misplaced. This is a perfectly fine question.
    – JeffE
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 4:22

2 Answers 2


Your application is a chance for you to sell yourself, and prove to the admissions committee that they should give you money to do research. Your personal statement should address your "background, practical experience, special interests, and career goals," but only in ways that prove you are a good researcher.

You shouldn't waste space talking about your childhood dreams, because usually those say nothing about your research potential. Instead you should highlight parts of your personal history that would make someone want to hire you for their lab.

  • 1
    Thank you Ben. Although, I think you slightly misunderstand what I ask. My question is: are these terms inconsistent in definition throughout areas of the world? That may affect to my application if I want to apply to many places
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 5:17

At least in the scholarship I'm about to apply, the SOP as we widely know is the academic statement. I still haven't got a satiate answer.

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