5 MPA Personal Statement Tips for Driven Applicants

5 MPA Personal Statement Tips for Driven Applicants-image

Most graduate degree programs require applicants to submit a statement of purpose, sometimes called a personal statement, along with their other application materials. The statement of purpose is your opportunity to tell your story, describe your motivations, and explain why you would be a good candidate for the program. 

But as a future Master of Public Administration (MPA) student, you must tailor your statement of purpose to your long term career goals specifically in the field of public affairs and public administration. Here are five tips to doing exactly that. 

Make yourself a competitive leader in public affairs; learn more about Cornell’s dedication to career management and professional development within the MPA program.

MPA Personal Statement Tips

When it comes to graduate school admission, the personal statement represents your chance to truly shine.  In addition to providing a tremendous opportunity to convey the quality of your writing to admissions committees, the personal statement allows you to highlight your purpose for pursuing graduate studies."


Thomas O’Toole

Executive Director of Public Affairs Programming at the Cornell Brooks School


From specific motivations for applying to exploring your goals in public affairs, here are a few tips to submitting a fantastic statement of purpose

1. Be specific about why you're applying to the MPA program


Why is this the right time for graduate study for you? 

You have many graduate programs to choose from — and there are myriad MPA programs to choose from across the country as well. For this reason, It is important to detail specifically why you are applying to the MPA program of your choosing: what aspects of the program are you drawn to? Why do you think you are a good fit for this MPA program in particular?

Be specific and really dive into your personal reasons for wanting to join the MPA program you are passionate about and be sure to include details regarding what you will contribute to the community at large


2. Make it personal to your unique experiences


Knowledge, skills, and abilities you will bring to enrich our community (Why are you the right person?)

What are your personal motivations for obtaining an MPA? What personal experience have inspired you to pursue a mission-driven, impactful career in public affairs? These are incredibly important questions to answer within your personal statement as they provide context for what is going to drive you throughout your time in the program and beyond.

Detail the kinds of challenges or problems you have encountered during your lived experience and connect those to your dedication to impact societal, systemic change.


3. Describe your long term career goals related to public affairs.


How can the Brooks MPA uniquely address your academic and professional interests (why is this the right place?)

Within the field of public affairs and public administration, there are nearly countless diverse and dynamic career opportunities. Whether you want to work in environmental, economic, infrastructure, or social policy, there is a public service career for you

Take some time to evaluate your long term career goals and describe the specific role or industry in which you want to transform peoples’ lives for good.


4. Include relevant professional experiences that will augment your time in the MPA program.


You will want to highlight your professional accomplishments within your statement of purpose. Be sure to include examples of volunteer work, positions of responsibility, and any other life experiences that have contributed to your interest in public affairs.

In doing so, you will exemplify your dedication to professional development, show your commitment to lifelong learning, and demonstrate how you are well prepared to continue gaining the skills needed to lead in the field.


5. Proofread

You are strongly encouraged to proofread carefully before submitting your personal statement. There are no additional writing samples within the application–this is the best way to show what you are capable of. 

Because public affairs is a writing intensive field, writing quality matters. So this should tell you something about the weight we place on these essays in our overall evaluation.”


Proofread your personal statement multiple times to be sure everything is correct before sending it our way.


6. Be proud; be confident; be passionate.


The field of public affairs and public administration is one of the most transformative fields in existence today. 

Our industry is a deeply ‘human’ field, and the more your passion and motivation come through in your writing, the more success you will have in the application process.” 


Armed with an MPA, you will enter the field with the marketable skills needed to make a difference, and for that reason, you should be excited, proud, and confident in your decision to apply to the MPA program of your choice.

Here’s How to Apply to Cornell’s MPA Program

At the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, we make applying to the MPA program as easy and as accessible as possible. Here are the six steps you need to take to apply.

  1. Complete Cornell’s Online Graduate School Application. For questions pertaining to any technical issues or errors, contact the Graduate School office at 607-255-4884.
  2. Submit unofficial copies of your college and university transcripts. Do not send official transcripts to the MPA Program. Before matriculating, all admitted students will be required to submit an official transcript to the Graduate School. Review submission parameters on the Graduate School’s website.
  3. Submit your résumé and three letters of recommendation (academic and/or professional are acceptable).
  4. Applicants for whom English is a second language will need to meet minimum scores on either the TOEFL or IELTS exams. Required minimum scores on the TOEFL exam are: writing 20, listening 15, reading 20, speaking 22. Our field requirements for the IELTS exam are an overall score of at least 7.0.
  5. Submit both a Statement of Purpose and an Essay. (See this page for more information.)
  6. You will be sent email instructions to participate in an online interview to complete your application.


Check out our recorded webinar about applying to the MPA program!

Jumpstart Your Public Service Career at the Cornell Brooks School MPA Program

You have the valuable opportunity to obtain a Master of Public Administration degree that will prepare you to launch your career in public service. 

Are you ready to take the plunge?

Take the first step in your next career venture by requesting information or starting your online application today. You can also visit our Webinar Library or Resource Library for additional webinar recordings and downloadable guides.


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