Personal Statement Grading Criteria

An "A" personal statement demonstrates exceptionally strong personal communication abilities and a fluent and sophisticated writing style. The student appears able to reflect intelligently on the past, realistically assess the value of research or work experience in the context of the present moment, and formulate immediate and long-term goals that will lead to success in the future.

The personal narrative is memorable, logical, and coherent and represents the work of a student who is highly motivated, firmly committed, and mature. The writer selects significant details to support the narrative that are vivid without being distracting. The introduction gets the reader's attention without risking shock value, and the conclusion leaves the reader with a satisfying impression of a writer who has achieved a level of self-understanding that enables him or her to integrate diverse educational and life experiences into a thought-provoking and highly engaging case for consideration.

The writer incorporates appropriate, clear, and smooth transitions, well-constructed paragraphs, and an arrangement of organizational elements that seems particularly apt. The writer uses sentence construction effectively, usually chooses words aptly, observes the conventions of written English, and makes few -- if any -- minor or technical errors.

The writer conveys outstanding preparation in a major area of interest, and the narrative shows that the writer will also contribute significantly to the quality and diversity of an incoming class or group of new hires. Although overcoming personal challenges may be a desirable feature of some "A" personal statements, it is not an element that is strictly required in a superior statement, as long as the writer seems to be a diligent worker and a contributing member of society.


A "B" personal statement demonstrates solid preparation and competent writing. The narrative of the student's past, present, and future is well-integrated and original, although it may be less so than in an "A" personal statement.

The prose of the personal statement is adequately varied, reasonable, and thoughtful; the level of thinking/analysis is appropriate; the ideas offered are specific and focused; the writer shows an awareness of other facets or perspectives; the writer has taken some care in including content appropriate to a busy audience in which many candidates will vie for a place.

The writer presents distinct units of thought in paragraphs controlled by specific, detailed, and arguable topic sentences and clear transitions between developed, cohering, and logically arranged paragraphs. In a "B" personal statement, there may be a few mechanical difficulties or stylistic problems (which/that use, split infinitives, dangling modifiers, etc.), and the writer may make occasional problematic word choices or syntax errors. There may also be a few spelling or punctuation errors or a cliché.

The writer conveys a record of above average performances in a major area of interest, and the narrative shows that the writer will add to the quality and diversity of an incoming class or group of new hires.


A "C" personal statement meets basic standards for credibility, honesty, personal warmth, and intellectual aptitude desired in a student or co-worker, but the candidate may often come off as merely average among a large pool of applicants. Although less developed and controlled than an "B" personal statement, a "C" personal statement at least explains any problems in a candidate's record appropriately and raises no red flags.

Although the "C" personal narrative is acceptable enough to keep the writer out of the initial "reject" pile, it may be weakened by focusing overly much on the remote past or on failures or weaknesses, by using a tone that may strike readers as inappropriately sentimental or aggressive or unprofessional, or by including too many tired clichés or overly broad generalities. It may lack a memorable beginning or a logical conclusion. The story-telling may be trite or formulaic.

Often "C" personal statements only partially develop arguments, fail to go beyond shallow analysis, leave ideas and generalizations undeveloped or unsupported, and make limited use of evidence from the writer's personal history. There may be some awkward transitions, some brief, weakly unified or undeveloped paragraphs, and the arrangement may not appear entirely natural or contain extraneous information. On the sentence-level, these personal statements may have more frequent wordiness, unclear or awkward sentences, imprecise use of words or over-reliance on passive voice, and some distracting grammatical errors (wrong verb tense, pronoun agreement, apostrophe errors, singular/plural errors, article use, preposition use, comma splice, etc.).

The writer shows basic competence in a major area of interest, and the narrative shows that the writer will not detract from the quality or diversity of the incoming class or group of new hires.


A "D" personal statement shows serious problems with writing in this genre. The style may be inappropriate, the evidence may be obviously insufficient, and the student's statement may raise questions in the reader's mind about credibility, honesty, rationality, or fairness. It may include salacious or scatological language or language that indicates intolerance or racial, religious, or sexual bias.

The prose indicates problems organizing written discourse; elements of the structure seem random, simplistic, or off-topic; little or no development of ideas is evident; the writing has little or no internal coherence, using few or inappropriate transitional devices. The writer may digress from one topic to another without developing ideas or terms or make insufficient or awkward use of evidence from life experience. The style of a "D" personal statementis often simplistic with a tendency to wander or merely dryly summarize.

A "D" personal statement often characterized by major grammatical or proofreading errors that indicate problems with Standard Written English (subject-verb agreement, sentence fragments, word form errors, etc.). The language may also be frequently weakened by colloquialisms, clichés, and hyperbolic statements or repeated inexact word choices.

The writer may seem to lack goals or direction, may seem emotionally insecure or filled with an inappropriate sense of entitlement, or may seem lacking in basic social or rhetorical skills needed for this particular career path.


An "F" personal statement may write too little text, proceed in an unstructured stream-of-consciousness manner, or focus on material not of interest to public audiences.

There may be little or no development; the writer may list disjointed facts, include misrepresentations about personal history, or disseminate misinformation; in style, there may be no transitions and incoherent paragraphs that suggest poor planning or no serious revision. Numerous grammatical errors and stylistic problems seriously detract from the argument

This writing often does not meet Standard Written English requirement. Plagiarism is also grounds for an "F" grade.