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Indiana Bloomington Graduate Application Personal Statement

Application form

The main application form is submitted online.

Begin an application
Application fee

Domestic: $55

International: $65

This application fee must be paid online via credit card in the online application form

Personal Statement/Statement of Intent

This focused statement of 1,000 words or fewer describes your professional interests and goals. Your personal statement/statement of intent should be uploaded and submitted with your online application.

NOTE: two personal statements are needed if you wish to apply for admission to both the PhD track and a terminal MA program. The 1,000 word statement should focus on your interests in the PhD track and the second statement should be no more than 300 words identifying interest in one of the terminal MA tracks offered by the Department of History (see Terminal MA Tracks), and provides a rationale for the terminal MA application.

Three (3) Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation should be written by professors of history or in related disciplines and they should address your potential as a scholar as well as past performances.  Whether submitted online or sent by mail, each letter of recommendation must be sent directly from the recommender.

Writing Sample

The writing sample—term paper, thesis, published articles, or any other piece of written work—indicates an applicant’s ability to communicate well in non-fiction prose. Your writing sample should be no more than 30 pages in length; we very strongly suggest the writing sample be in the English language. If the paper you are going to submit is more than 30 pages, select and submit only the 30 pages that best highlight your abilities. Your writing sample should be uploaded and submitted with your online application form (see above).

Official Transcripts

We must receive one official transcript from EACH college or university attended (Undergraduate and Graduate levels), whether or not a degree was earned.

Note: We cannot accept transcripts directly from applicants. Please contact the Registrar of your university and request a copy, preferably in electronic format, sent to the Department of History office at the email below.

If email is not an option, you may send official documents to the Domestic Application Address listed below.

Domestic applicants should send ALL of their transcripts either electronically to the email above or by mail to the Department of History.

International applicants should mail ALL of their transcripts to the Office of International Admissions at the International Application Address below.

Office of International AdmissionsPoplars 221400 E. Seventh StreetBloomington, IN 47405, USA)
Original GRE test scores

GRE scores should be no more than 5 years old. For electronic scores, the codes are “1324” for Indiana University and “2799” for the Department of History.

TOEFL scores (for non-native English speakers)

If your native language is not English, you must submit results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The test service (ETS) should report the TOEFL score directly to Indiana University Bloomington. The Indiana University TOEFL code is "1324".

NOTE: The College of Arts and Sciences sets the minimum TOEFL scores as follows: 79 (internet-based); 213 (computer-based); or 550 (paper-based).

Personal Statements and Application Letters

The process of applying for jobs, internships, and graduate/professional programs often requires a personal statement or application letter. This type of writing asks writers to outline their strengths confidently and concisely, which can be challenging.

Though the requirements differ from application to application, the purpose of this type of writing is to represent your goals, experiences and qualifications in the best possible light, and to demonstrate your writing ability. Your personal statement or application letter introduces you to your potential employer or program director, so it is essential that you allow yourself enough time to craft a polished piece of writing.


Before you sit down to write, do some preparation in order to avoid frustration during the actual writing process. Obtain copies of documents such as transcripts, resumes and the application form itself; keeping them in front of you will make your job of writing much easier. Make a list of important information, in particular names and exact titles of former employers and supervisors, titles of jobs you have held, companies you have worked for, dates of appropriate work or volunteer experiences, the duties involved etc. In this way, you will be able to refer to these materials while writing in order to include as much specific detail as possible.


After you have collected and reviewed these materials, it is time to start writing. The following is a list of concerns that writers should keep in mind when writing a personal statement/application letter.

Answer the Question: A major problem for all writers can be the issue of actually answering the question being asked. For example, an application might want you to discuss the reason you are applying to a particular program or company. If you spend your entire essay or letter detailing your qualifications with no mention of what attracted you to the company or department, your statement will probably not be successful. To avoid this problem, read the question or assignment carefully both as you prepare and again just prior to writing. Keep the question in front of you as you write, and refer to it often.

Consider The "I" Problem: This is a personal statement; using the first person pronoun "I" is acceptable. Writers often feel rather self-conscious about using first person excessively, either because they are modest or because they have learned to avoid first and second person ("you") in any type of formal writing. Yet in this type of writing using first person is essential because it makes your prose more lively. Using third person can result in a vague and overly wordy essay. While starting every sentence with "I" is not advisable, remember that you and your experiences are the subject of the essay.

Avoid Unnecessary Duplication: Sometimes a writer has a tendency to repeat information in his or her personal statement that is already included in other parts of the application packet (resume, transcript, application form, etc.). For example, it is not necessary to mention your exact GPA or specific grades and course titles in your personal statement or application letter. It is more efficient and more effective to simply mention academic progress briefly ("I was on the Dean's List"; or "I have taken numerous courses in the field of nutrition") and then move on to discuss appropriate work or volunteer experiences in more detail.

Make Your Statement Distinctive: Many writers want to make their personal statements unique or distinctive in some way as a means of distinguishing their application from the many others received by the company or program. One way to do this is to include at least one detailed example or anecdote that is specific to your own experience—perhaps a description of an important family member or personal moment that influenced your decision to pursue a particular career or degree. This strategy makes your statement distinctive and memorable.

Keep It Brief: Usually, personal statements are limited to 250–500 words or one typed page, so write concisely while still being detailed. Making sure that each paragraph is tightly focused on a single idea (one paragraph on the strengths of the program, one on your research experience, one on your extracurricular activities, etc.) helps keep the essay from becoming too long. Also, spending a little time working on word choice by utilizing a dictionary and a thesaurus and by including adjectives should result in less repetition and more precise writing.

Personal Statement Format

As mentioned before, the requirements for personal statements differ, but generally a personal statement includes certain information and can follow this format (see following model).


Many personal statements begin with a catchy opening, often the distinctive personal example mentioned earlier, as a way of gaining the reader’s attention. From there you can connect the example to the actual program/position for which you are applying. Mention the specific name of the program or company, as well as the title of the position or degree you are seeking, in the first paragraph.

Detailed Supporting Paragraphs

Subsequent paragraphs should address any specific questions from the application, which might deal with the strengths of the program/position, your own qualifications, your compatibility with the program/position, your long-term goals or some combination thereof. Each paragraph should be focused and should have a topic sentence that informs the reader of the paragraph’s emphasis. You need to remember, however, that the examples from your experience must be relevant and should support your argument about your qualifications.


Tie together the various issues that you have raised in the essay, and reiterate your interest in this specific program or position. You might also mention how this job or degree is a step towards a long-term goal in a closing paragraph. An application letter contains many of the same elements as a personal statement, but it is presented in a business letter format and can sometimes be even shorter and more specific than a personal statement. An application letter may not contain the catchy opening of the personal statement but instead includes detailed information about the program or position and how you found out about it. Your application letter usually refers to your resume at some point. Another difference between a personal statement and an application letter is in the conclusion, which in an application letter asks for an interview.


Because this piece of writing is designed to either get you an interview or a place in a graduate school program, it is vital that you allow yourself enough time to revise your piece of writing thoroughly. This revision needs to occur on both the content level (did you address the question? is there enough detail?) and the sentence level (is the writing clear? are the mechanics and punctuation correct?). While tools such as spell-checks and grammar-checks are helpful during revision, they should not be used exclusively; you should read over your draft yourself and/or have others do so.


Produced by Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN