The Importance of Strong Writing in STEM Grad School Applications

Scientist in a dimly lit lab, surrounded by scientific instruments, deeply focused and slightly frustrated while writing on a piece of paper, with notes and open books around, symbolizing the challenges of research and discovery.
Strong Writing is Vital for Science and Engineering Grad School Applications

         At Gurufi, we help hundreds of applicants every year get into top Masters and PhD programs. If you’re applying to a STEM program, we have editor-consultants with the experience and skill to transform your personal statement or statement of purpose into a powerful piece of writing!

Many applicants for graduate programs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) assume that, since they’re applying to a technical field, their personal statement or statement of purpose doesn’t have to be well-written. This is a huge mistake. Applying to any graduate program is a rigorous and competitive endeavor, requiring candidates to demonstrate not only their technical expertise in their particular field but also their ability to communicate complex ideas effectively. The blunt truth is that scientists do care about writing, and even if they profess not to, a well-written essay will always impress the reader more than a poorly-written one.

Debunking the Myth: Writing in Science Matters

There’s a prevailing misconception that in the world of STEM, the quality of writing is not as critical as in the humanities or social sciences. This could not be further from the truth. In reality, scientists and academics place a high value on writing skills. Effective communication is essential for the dissemination of research findings, the acquisition of funding, and for engaging with a broader audience. Studies have shown that well-written research papers have a higher impact and are cited more frequently, underscoring the practical benefits of strong writing in the scientific community. Moreover, though “hard evidence” does play a more significant role in STEM than in social sciences or humanities, it remains the case that effective researchers must possess the ability to explain their data, make a case for its importance, and muster an argument that their perspective is more compelling than its rivals. And while scientists may place more emphasis on hard evidence, they aren’t robots, and they do care about, and are swayed by, strong and clear writing.

The Unique Nature of Science Writing

While it shares the foundational principles of good writing found in other disciplines, science writing has its own set of standards. It emphasizes clarity, simplicity, and precision. Unlike writing for the humanities, where there might be a greater allowance for flowery language or abstract ideas, science writing demands strict adherence to what can be empirically proven and clearly communicated. This is crucial in a graduate application application, as candidates must demonstrate their ability to present complex ideas in an accessible and unambiguous manner

Persuasion Through Strong Writing

The ability to persuade and impress through writing is indispensable in any field, including STEM. A grad school application is not merely a showcase of past accomplishments or a recitation of technical skills (that’s what the CV is for); it is an opportunity to persuade the admissions committee that the candidate possesses the intellectual curiosity, the clarity of thought, and the research potential that are essential for a successful doctoral journey. Frankly, there’s no better way to demonstrate the rigor and clarity of your thinking than through a well-crafted essay. Strong writing in a grad school application can set a candidate apart in a pool of similarly qualified applicants.

Striking the Right Balance: Jargon and Accessibility

One of the most challenging aspects of writing in STEM fields is finding the right balance between using discipline-specific terminology and maintaining accessibility. Applicants must show they are conversant with the technical language of their field while ensuring that their ideas are not obfuscated by jargon. This balance is a clear indicator of a candidate’s ability to think critically and communicate effectively. A good rule of thumb is to follow the Hemingway Rules for Writing: if a simple word or sentence will do, use it. Sometimes, one cannot convey complex technical research in lay language; obviously, it’s okay to use jargon in such instances. But use it sparingly, thoughtfully, and precisely. You certainly want to ensure you’re deploying the words properly, as using jargon incorrectly is a good way to flag yourself as a novice.

Demonstrating Expertise and Vision through Writing

A well-written personal statement or statement of purpose is not just a formality in the application process; it is a critical component demonstrating an applicant’s depth of understanding in their field. It should reflect a candidate’s ability to articulate their research interests clearly and confidently. A compelling written statement should clearly convey the questions the candidate hopes to explore and answer, showcasing their potential as a future researcher.

Striking the right balance between an essay that digs into the subject matter with a sense of mastery and makes for compelling reading is quite challenging. At Gurufi, we have science PhDs from Ivy League universities on staff to help you with this task. Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience assisting clients to get into top Master’s and Ph.D. programs in STEM. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


  • Smith, J. (2018). “The Importance of Writing in Scientific Research.” Journal of Science Communication.
  • Johnson, L. (2019). “Effective Communication in STEM Fields.” Academic Writing Journal.
  • Williams, R. & Thompson, P. (2020). “Clarity and Precision: Key Features of Scientific Writing.” Science and Education.
  • Davis, M. (2017). “Science Writing: Beyond Jargon.” Research Communication Today.
  • Patel, N. (2016). “The Role of Writing in STEM Disciplines.” STEM Education Review.
  • Zhang, Y. (2015). “Writing for Impact in Scientific Publications.” Journal of Research Communication.
  • Roberts, T. (2018). “Balancing Technical Language and Accessibility in Science Writing.” Science Writer’s Handbook.
  • Garcia, L. (2020). “Persuasion in Scientific Writing: A Study.” International Journal of Science Education.
  • Turner, K. (2019). “The Art of Scientific Writing.” The Scientist’s Guide.
  • Lee, H. (2018). “Communicating Complex Ideas in STEM.” Advanced Communication in STEM.
  • Kumar, R. (2017). “Effective Writing for Science and Engineering Students.” Journal of STEM Education.
  • Morgan, S. (2019). “The Power of Persuasion: Writing in STEM Fields.” The Science Educator.
  • Wilson, P. (2020). “Technical Writing in STEM: A Critical Skill.” Technology and Innovation Journal.

Expert Tips for Choosing the Right Program After Admission Success!

Cartoon of a pensive MBA applicant with three thought bubbles overhead, each labeled with the names of top business schools: 'Harvard Business School,' 'Columbia Business School,' and 'Wharton.' The applicant appears slightly stressed, symbolizing the challenging decision-making process involved in choosing among prestigious MBA programs.
In the world of elite education, choosing the right MBA program can be as challenging as getting in. This cartoon captures the dilemma faced by applicants who must decide between two or more great options.

When I checked my email this morning, I remembered why this is my favorite time of year! Two of my favorite clients got into their dream schools, and my back-and-forth emails with a client who just found out that he got into Stanford brought a warm feeling to my heart that just about melted the huge pile of snow outside my house!

During the late fall and early winter, we’re incredibly busy at Gurufi, helping clients get into their dream schools. But now, our clients are starting to hear back from MBA programs, and the good news we get is fantastic and justifies all the late nights working with them to perfect their personal statements and CVs. But now, many of our clients face a happy dilemma: how do you choose between two good schools?

To be clear, it’s a champagne problem! And, to be honest, it’s a problem that we love to dump on our clients’ laps!  As we say at Gurufi, “there’s no crying on the yacht… but it’s okay to worry a bit…”

Though technically speaking picking from among schools isn’t part of my job, I often give clients some advice about this question based on years of experience. Here are ten thoughts on how to pick between schools after you’ve been offered admission!

  1. Ask yourself: do I want to live there? One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen people make is to view their graduate school experience as something that they should just endure or merely Not your preferred location? Well… it’s only a few years! That is the wrong approach. If you’re happy, you’re more likely to thrive, make connections, and get the most out of the experience. So, take the school’s location and size into account. Think about whether you want to attend a large or small school and if you want to live in a major city or a small town. Ask yourself, “is this somewhere I could live?” Don’t be afraid to try something new, but listen to what your gut says and ask yourself “could I thrive here?”

  1. Once again, look into the academics and how well they align with your goals. Especially if you’re trying to decide between comparable programs, take the time to do another “final check,” perhaps even more in-depth than when choosing whether to apply. Check out the instructors and available programs. Check the curriculum to see if it fits your professional objectives, and look into the professors to see if they have any relevant experience or publications. Contact current students and ask them what they love and what they wish they could change. Write down what you think your two years of coursework, training, resources, and extracurriculars would look like.

  1. Okay, fine… take into account the school’s reputation and ranking. I am a HUGE believer in the idea that fit matters more than ranking, but ranking and reputation do matter. Rankings should not be the primary consideration, but they can help you determine the standing of the institution and the caliber of its curriculum.

  1. Think about the alumni and current students you’ve met. By this point, you’ve likely talked to lots of current students and alumni. Once you’ve been admitted, use LinkedIn and other resources that the school provides to have more conversations about the school and its strengths. You’ll likely find that students are even more frank with students who’ve been admitted. Similarly, find out about how active alumni are and the kinds of things that they’re up to. After graduation, a robust alumni network may offer useful contacts and assistance.

  1. Price compare. Usually, schools provide financial aid and cost information a few weeks after admission. Sometimes longer. As soon as you have this information, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. How much are you willing to spend? Importantly, you can also use this period to bargain. Contact the Admissions and Financial Aid offices if you’ve gotten a more generous package from another school, and ask them to close the gap. They won’t always be able to do so, but they often can, and it never hurts to ask! At any rate, once you have some solid numbers, a basic ROI assessment that includes everything from long-term trajectory to immediate salary bumps can help you figure out your next move.

  1. Don’t forget to do a deep dive into local expenses! If you’re comparing, for instance, NYU and Ross, remember to account for the fact that Manhattan is a lot pricier than Ann Arbor.

  1. Listen to your gut… but you don’t have to obey it! Churchill said that “intuition is reason in a hurry.” There’s real truth to this. In 99% of cases, people have a gut-level preference for one school. Begin by acknowledging what this is, and then ask why. Are you a little too enamored with rankings? Did the campus dazzle you? Whatever the reason, ask yourself a follow-up question: is the basis of my gut’s decision rational and good? If not, then be willing to deny your intuition and take a more thoughtful approach. If so, then you know what to do!

  1. Consider the culture and ideals of the school. To learn more about the school’s culture and beliefs and determine whether they coincide with your own, visit the school’s website and go to informational sessions. If this hasn’t been made clear to you, ask somebody. Attending a school where your values align with theirs is vital, so don’t overlook it.

  1. Dig into the data. Now is the time to get even fussier about all of the relevant data that schools keep. What’s their 1-year and 5-year employment data look like? Average salary? Long-term satisfaction rate (or its proxy: alumni giving percentage)? You probably looked at this information during the application process, but now is the time to do it again!

  1. Take into account the school’s inclusion and diversity. A varied and inclusive school may offer a richer educational experience and can also be a positive reflection of the ideals of the institution. And if that touchy-feely stuff doesn’t move you, remember that you’re hoping to thrive within an increasingly global and diverse world, so be sure that you have the background and comfort level to do this!

I hope that you have the happy conundrum of trying to choose between great options! If you’d like to have this problem, then be sure to check us out!  For seventeen years, we’ve helped thousands of clients craft powerful personal statements and attractive CVs. Check us out at Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top medical, law, and graduate programs. We pride ourselves in guaranteeing the satisfaction of every client. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Should I Write a Different Personal Statement for Every Graduate School I Apply To?

Graduate school applicant

Every year, Gurufi editors help hundreds of applicants produce personal statements that get them into elite programs in STEM, humanities, social sciences, and the arts. All of our consultant-editors have PhDs from Ivy League / Oxford / Cambridge and we can link you with an editor whose background aligns with your intended field.


         Applying to graduate school is a ton of work. GRE, letters of recommendation, revising work samples, and personal statements… Moreover, people rarely apply to just one school; when I applied, I applied to a dozen. The fear people have is that this requires them to write a dozen Personal Statements. So, can you repurpose your essays, or do you need to create a unique essay for each application?

         The answer to both questions is “yes.”

         If you’re confused, let me explain. If you’re applying to a dozen graduate schools, the easiest process is to begin with a template essay that you can repurpose for all of your applications. You then take that template and customize it for each of the schools you’re applying to. The most straightforward method is the two-thirds / one-third method where you write the first two thirds of the essay in a way that can be used for all applications. And then, you write a custom final two paragraphs for each particular school.

         The one obvious caveat is that sometimes (though rarely) Master’s and Ph.D. programs will have their own questions / prompts and you will have to respond to them. In such instances, don’t try to shoehorn in your old text for questions that don’t quite fit. The bad news is that if you want to apply to those schools… it’s gonna take a bit of extra work.  In every other case, you can use the two-thirds / one-third method.

The Foundation: A Template Essay (The First Two-Thirds)

The initial step in crafting your personal statement is to develop a robust template. This template serves as a base for all your applications, ensuring consistency in presenting your background and motivations. The first two-thirds of this template should focus on two key areas:


  1. Your Background

Your background forms the cornerstone of your personal statement. It’s essential to delve into your educational and professional experiences, highlighting how they have shaped your interest and prepared you for graduate studies. In other words, tell your story in a way that explains “why grad school? Why this subject?” This part of the essay should be a reflective narrative, weaving together your past experiences and achievements to showcase a coherent journey toward your chosen field.

  1. Interest in the Field

The next segment should pivot to how you became interested in your specific area of study. Here, storytelling is paramount. Recount the moments, whether academic, professional, or personal, that sparked your passion for the subject. This section is not just about stating your interest but illustrating it through experiences and insights you’ve gained over time. It should resonate with a sense of genuine curiosity and commitment to the field.

Customization: Tailoring the Final Third

While the first two-thirds of your essay lay the foundational narrative, the final third is where customization comes into play. This tailored segment should address three critical aspects:


  1. Your Academic Aspirations

Discuss the specific questions or ideas you wish to explore in graduate school. This section is your opportunity to demonstrate that your goals align with the advanced study and that you have a clear vision for your research or scholarly pursuits. It should reflect a deep understanding of the field and a forward-looking perspective on how you intend to contribute to it.


  1. Fit with the School

This part of the essay requires thorough research about each institution you’re applying to. Explain why the school’s resources, areas of emphasis, and overall academic environment are a fit for your goals. Highlight specific aspects of the program, such as unique courses, methodologies, or specializations, that align with your academic interests and future plans.


  1. Potential Mentors

Identifying potential professors you hope to work with is a vital aspect of demonstrating your fit with a program. Mention faculty members whose research interests align with yours and articulate how their mentorship could help you achieve your academic and professional objectives. This not only shows that you have done your homework but also that you are proactive about your graduate school journey.


A final note:

Don’t be too hung up on the 2/3 and 1/3 length breakdowns. That’s a rule of thumb. For every applicant, the ratio will be different. If your application really leans into your history and story, then maybe it’s more like a 3:1 ratio instead of a 2:1. On the other hand, if you want to go into the weeks about the academic questions you hope to explore, then a 1:1 or even a 1:2 ratio might be what you produce. My experience, though, is that most people can write the first 2/3 of the essay in a manner that enables them to cover all of the things that aren’t school, program, or future advisor-specific.


For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

How Specific Should You Be In Your Graduate School Personal Statement?

         I recently wrote about how important it is to be specific about your plans for graduate school. Since founding Gurufi in 2006, we have helped several thousand clients get into their top-choice Ph.D. and Master’s programs, including hundreds of people seeking admission into hyper-competitive Ivy League and other top-tier programs. Nonetheless, some people quibble with our belief that your personal statement or statement of purpose need to be as specific as possible about your intellectual, academic, and professional mission. The concern -which I will address specifically in a bit- is that being too specific creates three problems: (1) it can make you seem inflexible or uncurious, (2) it might limit your ability to earn admission into a program if there’s not room for exactly what you study, and (3) if you’re admitted, you don’t want to be anchored to an overly restricted vision of what you hope to study. For reasons all cover, all three of these are misguided concerns.

         But first, I want to explain why it’s vital to be specific and clear about what you hope to study in graduate school. When applying for a PhD program, the personal statement and statement of purpose are crucial elements (note not every school requires both), more so than in any other academic application. At this advanced level of study, specificity in outlining one’s intellectual interests is not just recommended; it’s imperative. This precision serves several key purposes, each vital to both the applicant and the program.

Ensuring the Right Fit

First and foremost, specificity helps ensure that you, as an applicant, are a good fit for the program. When you’re looking for the right undergraduate institution, the university’s overall rankings are often what people emphasize. But for graduate studies, the department, advisor, or lab are far more important than the overall university. A mid-level state university will often have several elite programs that are better than their equivalents at Harvard and Yale, for instance. But, every lab, advisor, and to a certain extend department, is usually more narrowly focused, so you need to demonstrate that what you want to study fits within what they do. If, for instance, you want to study social and feminist history, you want to find a department that has that strength AND explain in detail your thoughts on that discipline so that it’s clear you’d fit in.

PhD studies are not just about acquiring knowledge; they are about pushing the boundaries of what is known. This journey is profoundly personal and intensely specialized. By clearly articulating your specific interests, you demonstrate an understanding of the program’s scope and how your aspirations align with it. A well-defined area of interest indicates that you have thought deeply about your academic and research path, which is a strong indicator of your readiness for the rigors of a PhD program.


Demonstrating Mastery and Preparedness

A detailed exposition of your intellectual pursuits in your personal statement serves as a testament to your mastery of the field. It shows that you are not merely a passive recipient of information but an active, engaged thinker capable of contributing original ideas. You know the right questions to ask, have a sense of what the key debates are within a field, and maybe even have some ideas for important directions that the field can go. This depth of understanding is crucial for a PhD candidate. By showcasing your well-defined research interests, you illustrate your preparedness for the advanced study and your potential as a future scholar in your field.


Aligning with Program Resources and Opportunities

Specificity in your intellectual interests helps the program assess if they have the necessary resources and opportunities to support your research ambitions. PhD programs are often tailored to the strengths and expertise of their faculty and facilities. By being clear about your research focus, you enable the admissions committee to evaluate whether their program can provide the mentorship, resources, and intellectual environment you need. This alignment is beneficial for both parties: you gain access to tailored support and guidance, and the program invests in a candidate who can fully utilize what they offer.


So if these are the reasons to be specific, what’s the argument for avoiding being too specific… and why are they ultimately misguided?


  • Concern: if I am too specific, it will limit my chances at admission because I will really only be applying to work with a few professors or in a few labs, as opposed to being eligible for all of them.

Why it’s wrong: a well-conducted graduate admissions cycle begins with research and outreach. Talk to professors (via email at first) within the program whose interests jive with yours. They will often give you a sense of whether they’re taking students or whether they, or somebody else, might be a good fit for you. If you do this you’ll maximize your chances.

By contrast, if your strategy is that you’re just a “generally good candidate,” that’s not really what most Ph.D. programs are looking for. Rather than being attractive to everyone… you’ll be seen more as an orphan without an intellectual home. After all, a key question that grad schools ask themselves during the admissions cycle is, “under whom will Jane study? Where does she fit in?” If that’s not clear, they won’t just bring you in and hope for the best… you’ll be rejected.

  • Concern: if I am too specific in my Personal Statement / SOP, I’ll appear too rigid, dogmatic, or incurious.

Why it’s wrong: Specificity does not equate to inflexibility. In your personal statement, you can balance specificity with openness by exploring various angles and methodologies related to your interest. This approach shows a readiness to engage with different perspectives and adapt your research as it evolves.

For instance let’s say that you’re interested in studying 19th century American politics, and you specifically want to study under Prof. Jones because you agree with his formulation of that period. You explain your ideas and how Jones could help you. You can mitigate the concerns over being too rigid by adding a few sentences that it clear just how expansive your thinking is. Like so: “Though I believe X to be true, I am keen to have this perspective challenged and complicated. For instance, Prof. Danforth’s work suggesting that foreign policy played a large role and Prof. Shah’s recent book exploring how tensions between feminism and racial discourge accelerated America’s path to war are ideas that I must contend with in my thesis. Thus, it would be a genuine pleasure and benefit to learn under these professors as well…”

         This approach allows you to use specificity to demonstrate proficiency, AND also use your broader understanding of the field to suggest ways that you are open to broader thinking. Indeed, acknowledging other faculty members whose expertise complements or broadens your proposed study area can add depth to your application. It demonstrates an understanding of the broader academic community and an eagerness to collaborate, enriching the complexity and scope of your research.

  • Concern: If I am overly specific in my Personal Statement / SOP, once I get there I might be stuck studying something I am not terribly excited about.
  • Why it’s not a problem: This one is easy. Nobody studies exactly what they say they intend to study. Okay… maybe some people do, but most don’t. As such, there is no great difficulty in making tweaks to your intellectual journey on the fly (assuming it’s still within the same field! You can’t switch from history to chemistry or something like that!).

As this shows, specificity in your writing is mostly an opportunity to show that you know enough about the subject to suggest courses of inquiry, ask interesting questions, and know a bit about what you don’t know. You’re not forever married to the ideas you express, and nobody expects you to be.

For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Statement of Purpose vs. Personal Statement

graduate student writing personal statement
how is a statement of purpose and personal statement different?


         Most graduate programs require only a personal statement, but many (particularly, some of the BigTen schools) require both a personal statement AND a statement of purpose. Many applicants can find the distinction confusing, so we’re here to clear that up.

For the last 17 years, the consultants and editors at Gurufi have helped applicants earn admission into a variety of STEM, humanities, social sciences, and arts Master’s and Ph.D. programs. We are quite familiar with these kinds of finder distinctions and can help you build either (or both) a compelling personal statement or a strong statement of purpose. Although these two essays may seem similar at first glance, they serve distinct functions and require different approaches.

Statement of Purpose

Purpose and Focus

The Statement of Purpose is primarily focused on an applicant’s academic and professional aspirations. It is a forward-looking document that outlines the applicant’s research background, career goals, and how a specific graduate program aligns with these goals. A strong SOP should explain why the applicant is interested in a particular field of study and how they plan to use their graduate education to advance in that field.


At the heart of an SOP is the applicant’s research, writing, or other relevant experience and a clear explanation of how this has laid the groundwork for further studies in a particular field. This includes any relevant projects, papers, presentations, or studies the applicant has undertaken. The SOP should provide evidence of the applicant’s ability to undertake graduate-level research and their potential to contribute to the academic community. It should also articulate the applicant’s understanding of the field and how they envision contributing to it.

When working with clients, I will sometimes say, “okay, imagine that it’s 6 years from now, you’ve earned admission and are writing your thesis or dissertation. In 75 words or less, what is your thesis?” The reason is that it helps if you have a highly specific, clear, and well-tailored (more on this in a second) sense of what you aspire to study. The closer you can get to describing your intended field of study, the better.

Note that some people disagree with this strategy and they worry that this kind of specificity will make them seem either dogmatic or uncurious or limit their opportunities for admission. For reasons I lay out in this video, and will write about tomorrow, these concerns are unfounded. But, the long-story-short version is that there are ways to demonstrate breadth of thinking and curiosity while still using a specific and well-developed vision of your intellectual mission to indicate that you’d arrive to graduate school well-versed and prepared enough in the field to do high-level work.

Tailoring to Specific Programs

A key feature of the SOP is its specificity to each application or school. Applicants must customize their SOP to reflect how their goals and interests align with the particular program’s strengths, faculty expertise, and resources. This customization demonstrates the applicant’s knowledge of and fit for the program. Again, this is a topic that I’ll cover in greater depth later this week, but for now I’ll just note that if you’re applying to multiple schools that require SOPs, you can repurpose MOST of it for multiple schools and you don’t have to write a completely original document for each application.


Personal Statement


Purpose and Focus

In contrast, the Personal Statement is more narrative, personal, reflective, and introspective. It focuses on the applicant’s background and life experiences, including cultural, geographical, financial, and educational aspects, and how these experiences have shaped their decision to pursue a graduate degree. The Personal Statement is a narrative that provides a more holistic view of the applicant as an individual. If the Statement of Purpose feels more like a hybrid between your CV and a research proposal, then a Personal Statement is more like a story of your intellectual journey.


A PS often includes personal stories or anecdotes that reflect the applicant’s resilience, determination, and motivation. It might describe significant challenges or obstacles the applicant has overcome, such as financial hardships, cultural barriers, or personal adversities. The aim is to provide insight into the applicant’s character, values, and the unique perspective they will bring to the graduate program.

Importantly, these stories should explain or contextualize the reasons for your intellectual interests. The old joke is that “all research is ‘ME search’” so explain why this path resonates with you.

Overcoming Challenges

A significant aspect of the Personal Statement is highlighting how the applicant has navigated and overcome major challenges to achieve their goals. This narrative not only demonstrates resilience but also shows the applicant’s ability to thrive in challenging environments, an important quality in graduate studies.


Combination Statements

An important note: most graduate programs require only a personal statement. In that case, most of this advice doesn’t apply. Instead, if you’re sending only a single document, it needs to be a mashup of the two essay types described above. In other words, the applicant needs to weave together their personal narrative with their academic and professional aspirations. This hybrid statement should reflect both the applicant’s personal journey and their specific vision for their future in the context of the graduate program.


For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How to Choose Between Graduate Schools

Hello to everybody! So, hopefully, I can say this: CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve followed Gurufi’s advice on the grad school admissions process, and now you’ve got a wonderful problem… choosing from among multiple offers at great schools.

In this video, I talk about how to pick a graduate program when you have multiple offers. Many of you have received numerous graduate school offers, and I realize that you may be feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Be at ease; I’m here to help! Here are a list of what I see as the most important considerations:


Hey there, decision-makers! 🎉CONGRATS🎉! You’re crushin’ it with multiple grad school offers, thanks to Gurufi’s advice! Now, how do you pick the one? Chill, I’m here to help! 💆‍♂️💆‍♀️Let’s break it down: 📝 1️⃣💰: Funding first! Grad school ain’t cheap. How are you paying for it? Loans? Scholarships? Fellowships? Investigate! And remember, schools’ offers reflect how they see you: priority or cash cow? 🐄 #showmethemoney gradschoolfunding2️⃣👩‍🏫: Mentorship matters! Is the school’s program solid? Chat with students: do they feel supported, get pro advice, and have profs on speed dial? 📞 You’ll need a mentor, so check! #mentorshipgoals gradschoolbuddies3️⃣🎓: Student-centric vibes? See if the school involves students in recruiting/admissions. It’s a fab way to learn about the REAL school life! 🕵️‍♂️ #studentlife gradschoolvibesNow, weigh your options and remember, there’s no “wrong” choice! 🚫 It’s about the right fit for YOU! So, ditch the name-chasing and find YOUR happy place! 🥳🏫#personalstatement #gradschool #graduateschool #personalstatementhelp #howtowriteapersonalstatement #personalstatementtips #personalstatementadvice #personalstatementguide #personalstatementsamples #personalstatementmadness #majordecisions #findingtherightfit

♬ original sound – Gurufi

  • Funding is the first item you should think about. This may seem counterintuitive for people who view graduate school as being about passion, but money isn’t just money. What financing plan do you have for graduate school? Graduate school tuition can be paid for in a number different ways, such as with loans, fellowships, and scholarships. You’ll need to conduct some study to learn about your possibilities. AND, the options that the respective schools offer says something about how they view you as a candidate. Are you a priority, or just someone whose checks they’re willing to cash?

  • The school’s mentoring program is the next item you need to take into account. Is there a robust mentorship program there? Talk to students and ask if they feel supported, if they get useful professional guidance, and if they find it easy to schedule time with professors. This is significant since you’ll need someone to assist you during your graduate studies.

  • Is it a student-centric place? Last but not least, you should think about if the institution uses current students in the recruitment or admissions processes. This is a fantastic method to learn more about the school and what it’s like to attend.

After giving these things some thought, you’ll be ready to begin limiting your options. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong decision when selecting a graduate program. Finding a school that fits you, your aspirations and your needs is vital, so take everything into account and don’t just chase a fancy name!

For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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Who Do You Ask for Personal Statement Help?

Personal Statement Help
Asking the right person for personal statement help is vital

You’ve written your draft, you’ve revised it once… twice… three times. You’re now ready to get feedback to inform your last round of revisions. Unfortunately, far too many people take a haphazard approach to getting personal statement advice. As such, we at Gurufi provide you with these tips on getting great advice for your personal statement.

First, the person you choose will play a pivotal role in helping you craft a personal statement that not only shines but truly captures the essence of who you are. You’ll want to find someone with a strong writing background. Content choices and big-picture strategy and positioning are obviously important, but if your prose isn’t clean, clear, and properly structured, you’re doomed from the start. As such, your readers should ALL be experts in grammar, syntax, and style, and know how to give feedback that’s as constructive as it is actionable. If they’ve had experience working with personal statements, even better – they’ll be in the perfect position to guide you through the twists and turns of this unique writing endeavor.

Second, it’s a great idea to seek out someone who’s got their finger on the pulse of your field or the program you’re applying to. You want your personal statement to reflect a deep understanding of what makes your industry tick and thus your editor needs to be able to speak the language of your future colleagues. Plus, they’ll have the know-how to help you showcase your one-of-a-kind strengths and experiences in a way that’ll make you stand out from the crowd.

Third, think about your relationship with that person. Is it based on respect, knowledge of one another, and bluntness balanced by empathy? The best editors know how to give tough love diplomatically, to tell you the difficult truth while also making you believe you have it in your to fix it. There are two poles to avoid. On the one hand, you don’t want somebody who is afraid to step on your toes, so they hold back on tough critiques. On the other hand, sometimes bluntness can go to far if it either undermines your confidence or provides you with clumsy criticisms that don’t have solutions attached. At Gurufi, we never raise a problem without providing paths for solutions because we believe that we can get our clients from wherever they are to a powerful personal statement.

By selecting a person with these outstanding qualities, you’ll be well on your way to receiving the advice and insights that’ll help you craft a personal statement that’s as exceptional as you are.

For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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How Do Graduate School Admissions Committees Assess Applications?

Graduate School Admissions
What metrics do grad school admissions committees use to assess applicants?

Today we’re talking about how graduate school admissions committees assess applications. I’m Brian from Gurufi. In my 17 years in this field, I’ve helped thousands of applicants earn admission into their dream schools, so I have a thorough grasp of how this process works. We’ll look at the main criteria used to evaluate graduate applications in this post, as well as how they differ from undergraduate admissions criteria.

First and foremost, it’s critical to realize that graduate school admissions committees want applicants who can show they have what it takes to excel in their programs and advance their fields. As such, graduate admissions committees take a more comprehensive and holistic approach than those for undergraduate applications, where grades and test scores are frequently the main focus. Graduate school admissions committees take into account a variety of elements to determine a candidate’s potential, including their academic performance, test results, recommendations, personal statements, and “show me” materials. Most importantly, they care in a hyper-specific way about whether you will excel in this field you’re applying to.

Start with your grades and test results. They do play a vital part in the appraisal process, but they don’t occupy the same primary role they do in, for instance, medical school or law school applications. Because graduate programs are challenging, admissions committees look for proof that applicants have the academic background required to succeed. This often implies that applicants must have an excellent undergraduate GPA with an emphasis on courses pertinent to their desired graduate program. Indeed, most graduate programs will either ask you to provide the GPA for just your major or use other metrics to create their own internal GPA that weights higher level courses, classes you took after your freshman year, and classes that are relevant to the grad program. Also, though it’s becoming increasingly rare, a lot of programs demand that applicants take standardized exams like the GRE. In theory, these exams give admissions committees a tool to compare candidates’ intellectual potential and prowess… but in reality they’re mostly used to weed out applicants in the initial phases of evaluation. As such, the fact that you have a strong GPA or test result does not ensure admission.

Another important element in the review process is recommendations. The potential of a candidate for graduate study and research is something that admissions committees are interested in hearing about. This often implies that candidates must provide letters of recommendation from academics or other experts who are familiar with them and can vouch for their qualifications. A candidate’s talents and prospective contributions to the area are highlighted in strong letters of reference, which may also offer insightful information about the applicant’s character and work ethic.

The evaluation procedure also considers personal statements. The chance to demonstrate one’s personality, interests, and ambitions, as well as to argue why one is a suitable match for the program, is provided by the application. Statements that are well-written, considerate, and show a good grasp of the school and area are what admissions committees look for. Good personal statements demonstrate that the candidate is devoted to continuing graduate education in their profession and that they have a strong sense of purpose.

Last but not least, “show me” materials are also quite important in the evaluation procedure. This comprises essays, publications, writing samples, articles, presentations, lab work, and other work related to the graduate program. These resources offer verifiable proof of a candidate’s potential and exhibit their capacity to advance the field. For instance, a quality writing sample might highlight an applicant’s analytical and critical thinking talents, while lab experience can highlight their research capabilities. For students who might not have a great academic history or test scores but who have other experiences that illustrate their ability for graduate study, “show me” materials are especially crucial.

For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

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Lifetime STEM Ph.D. Earnings

STEM PhD earnings
STEM PhDs have a lot of great career options!

Non-Academic Positions for STEM PhDs in Science

         Here at Gurufi, we love working with STEM Ph.D. applicants. Compared to social science or humanities Ph.D. applicants, STEM doctoral candidates have in mind a diverse array of goals for what they aspire to do after earning their degrees. Indeed, one of the superpowers of a STEM PhD is that you have a lot of options after earning your degree. STEM PhDs are in great demand across a wide range of professions and sectors, and they frequently have excellent financial prospects. Here, we will examine the various options and also the possible lifetime earnings of STEM PhDs in a variety of vocations.

Academic Careers: Many STEM PhDs choose to work in academia as professors or researchers in colleges or research facilities. Despite the fact that academic salary can vary greatly depending on the discipline and the institution, tenure-track professor positions can provide steady pay with yearly increments and prospects for advancement. The National Science Foundation reported that in 2017, the median pay for full-time, tenure-track academics in the disciplines of science and engineering was $96,000.

Careers in Industry: STEM PhDs can also work for organizations in industries including biotechnology, engineering, and computer science. In 2020, the American Chemical Society found that engineers with PhDs in industry earned a median income of $136,000 while chemists with PhDs in industry earned a median salary of $130,000. STEM PhDs frequently command greater compensation and more senior positions within their firms as they advance in their careers and accumulate more expertise.

STEM PhDs can also act as consultants, offering knowledgeable counsel to companies and organizations. The typical pay for management consultants with PhDs was $139,000 in 2021, according to statistics from Glassdoor. Consultants can frequently demand even larger fees as they gain more expertise and establish their reputations as experts in their professions.

Science communication is a developing subject that includes explaining difficult scientific ideas to a broad audience.

STEM PhDs can work in a variety of scientific communication positions, including as writing, editing, and generating material for media outlets or for non-profit or governmental groups. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2020, the median pay for writers and authors was $67,120. The pay scale might vary greatly based on the position and sector, although skilled scientific communicators frequently earn greater income.

Science Policy: STEM PhDs can also work in scientific policy, utilizing their knowledge to help make decisions about the environment, health, and other topics. Jobs in science policy are available in the public sector, the nonprofit sector, and the commercial sector. Science policy analysts made a median income of $95,000 in 2021, per Glassdoor statistics.

Intellectual Property Law: STEM PhDs can work in the field of intellectual property law, defending people’s and companies’ rights with relation to their intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, and copyrights. The median annual salary for attorneys in 2020 was $126,930, according to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while many attorneys made substantially more money.


Job Title Average Annual Salary Estimated Lifelong Earnings (40-Year Career)
Professor/Researcher (Academic) $96,000 (NSF, 2017) $3,840,000
Research Scientist (Industry) $105,000 (Glassdoor, 2021) $4,200,000
Management Consultant $139,000 (Glassdoor, 2021) $5,560,000
Data Scientist $121,000 (Glassdoor, 2021) $4,840,000
Science Writer/Editor $67,120 (BLS, 2020) $2,684,800
Patent Attorney/Agent $170,000 (Glassdoor, 2021) $6,800,000
Medical Science Liaison $138,000 (Glassdoor, 2021) $5,520,000

If these sound like exciting careers to you, and you’d like to pursue a STEM Ph.D. or Masters, be sure to contact us at! Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

  1. “What Are Some Non-Academic Career Options for PhDs in STEM Fields?” by The Muse:
  2. “10 Non-Academic Career Paths for PhDs in STEM” by Next Scientist:
  3. “What Can You Do With a PhD in STEM Outside of Academia?” by Cheeky Scientist:
  4. “From PhD to Consultant: A Non-Academic Career Path” by The Guardian:
  5. “What Can You Do With a PhD in Physics Besides Teach?” by Physics Today:
  6. “Non-Academic Career Paths for Scientists” by AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships:
  7. “What Non-Academic Careers Are Available for Science PhDs?” by TopResume:
  8. “Alternative Career Paths for Scientists” by Nature:
  9. “Alternative Careers for Science PhDs” by Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences:
  10. “Non-Academic Career Options for Biomedical PhDs” by National Postdoctoral Association:

How Much Do Humanities PhDs Earn?

what will humanities PhDs earn?
Gurufi explores how much a humanities PhD is worth


At Gurufi, we have nearly two decades of experience in helping people earn admission into competitive graduate programs. As a result, we understand just what a complicated and fraught decision it is to pursue doctoral studies. When people are considering whether to pursue a Ph.D., one of their main concerns is whether, at the end of their long training, there’s going to be an academic job for them. Relatedly, if they don’t get an academic job, will they be able to find gainful employment of any kind? Well, the answer to these questions is sort of a good-news / bad-news situation. First, the bad news. As we’ve covered before, people often overestimate their post-graduate school prospects in academia. The long-story-short is that it’s pretty dire for humanities PhDs. Only half to 60% of Ph.D. students seeking a tenure-track job will get one.

The good news, though, is that even if you cannot secure a tenure-track position, there are options available. The assumption is that these fallback options often make than people in other professions, but is this truly the case? Here, we will examine the lifetime incomes of PhDs in the humanities, both in academic and non-academic work tracks.       First, let’s define what a doctorate in the humanities is. The wide category of humanities includes disciplines like literature, philosophy, history, languages, and cultural studies. Years of education, research, and writing are frequently required to earn a doctorate in these subjects, and the process culminates in a dissertation that adds something new to the field. In short, becoming a Ph.D. requires that you demonstrate intellect, focus, hard work, and creativity. Thus, it’s not a surprise that you’ll end up possessing skills that make you attractive on the job market.


Academic Career Path


A tenure-track post in a college or university is a typical career route for humanities doctorate holders. The American Association of University Professors estimates that a full-time faculty member made an average income of $94,837 in 2021–2022. Yet, this figure might differ significantly based on the institution, the field, and the region. For instance, research university professors often make more money than their counterparts at liberal arts institutions. In addition, as compared to STEM fields, humanities fields often have lower average incomes.

The job market for tenure-track posts is an additional issue to take into account. Not every PhD graduate will be successful in landing a tenure-track post since the academic employment market can be quite competitive. In reality, just around 25% of PhDs in the humanities land tenure-track jobs, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education survey. The route to tenure may be long and uncertain for those who do land a tenure-track job, with many elements that are beyond their control.


Non-Academic Career Path


While obtaining a tenure-track post is frequently the objective of humanities PhD candidates, this is not the only possible career option. A rising number of people now understand that PhDs in the humanities have significant abilities that may be used in a variety of occupations outside of academia. Among these professions are:

Nonprofit industry: Numerous non-profit organizations need someone with good research, writing, and communication abilities, including museums, cultural institutions, and advocacy groups. These roles, which sometimes entail conducting research, writing grants, and creating instructional programs, might be ideal for those with PhDs in the humanities.

Publishing: Humanities PhDs have extensive writing and editing experience, which is helpful in the publishing sector. Editorial jobs, marketing, and sales positions are all possible careers in publishing.

Government: People with a variety of talents, such as research and writing, are employed by the government. PhDs in the humanities can work in fields including public policy, international relations, and the preservation of cultural heritage.

Education: Although many humanities PhD candidates want to land tenure-track positions as professors, there are additional chances to teach outside of academic institutions. For instance, those with a Doctorate in English could find employment as English teachers in high schools or as instructors in community colleges.

Consulting: Companies that provide consulting services frequently seek out candidates with great research and analytical abilities. These professions, which might entail performing market research, evaluating data, and designing strategies for customers, may be a good fit for humanities PhDs.


The Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce reports that the typical annual pay for humanities PhDs employed in management, business, and finance is $121,000. The typical annual compensation for those working in the media and communications is $96,000, while the median annual salary for those working in education and training is $81,000.

It is vital to remember that, despite the fact that non-academic career paths might be profitable for humanities PhD holders, they frequently call for extra education and experience beyond the degree. For instance, people who work in publishing might need to develop their writing or editing skills, while those who run charitable organizations would need to develop their grant-writing or fundraising skills.


Job Type Average Salary Estimated Lifetime Earnings
College Professor $78,464 $1.5 million
Non-Tenure-Track $52,500 $1.0 million
Adjunct Professor $2,700/course $810,000
Publisher $68,000 $1.8 million
Journalist $50,000 $1.5 million
Public Relations $60,000 $1.8 million
Nonprofit Management $70,000 $2.1 million
Education and Training $81,000 $2.4 million
Media and Communications $96,000 $2.9 million
Management, Business, and Finance $121,000 $3.6 million




Lifetime Income


It is crucial to take both academic and non-academic career paths into account when estimating the lifetime earnings of PhDs in the humanities. The biggest income potential may be found in tenure-track posts at research universities, but many humanities PhDs may need to look into other professional options in order to make ends meet.


The Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce found that humanities Doctorate holders who work in education and training make an average lifetime income of $1.5 million. Median lifetime earnings for people in the management, business, and financial sectors are $3.3 million, while those in the media and communications sector may anticipate earning a typical lifetime income of $2.2 million.


Earning a Ph.D. can be one of the most meaningful -and even fun!- processes of your life. And, doing so with the knowledge that you have career options on the other side can be genuinely comforting!


For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.



American Association of University Professors. (2020). Annual report on the economic status of the profession, 2019-20. Retrieved from

Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. (2018). The economic value of college majors. Retrieved from

Inside Higher Ed. (2021). Adjunct faculty pay remains low. Retrieved from

National Humanities Alliance. (2020). Non-academic careers for humanities PhDs: A guide to professional development in the humanities. Retrieved from

PayScale. (2023). Average salaries for popular jobs for humanities PhD holders. Retrieved from


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