Your personal statement is like the cover letter when applying for a job. It is the only part of the university application you have direct control of, and it is essential to showcase your skills, experiences, and passion to the admissions committee. Here’s what to do – and what not to do – when writing a winning personal statement.
- Understand the Guidelines:
- Carefully read and understand the university’s prompt or guidelines for the personal statement. Make sure you address all the key points required.
- Brainstorm and Outline:
- Jot down your achievements, experiences, skills, interests, and goals. Think about how these relate to the course you’re applying to, and what you want to convey to the admissions committee. Show that you’ve done research to demonstrate your passion, curiosity, and drive to pursue your chosen subject. Create an outline to organize your thoughts logically.
- Begin with a captivating opening that grabs the reader’s attention. You could use an anecdote, a quote, or a personal experience relating to your chosen field of study. Clearly state why you’re interested in the subject and why you want to pursue it.
- Showcase Your Motivation:
- Explain why you’re passionate about your chosen field of study. Highlight any experiences, events, or people that have influenced your decision to pursue this field. Connect your past experiences to your future goals.
- Highlight Your Relevant Experiences:
- Discuss your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, internships, research projects, or relevant jobs. Focus on experiences demonstrating your skills, dedication, and suitability for the course.
- It’s not so much about what you’ve done, but how these activities/experiences have informed your decision.
- Demonstrate Key Skills:
- Mention principal skills essential to your chosen field. This could include critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, communication, research, and leadership. Give examples of how you’ve developed or utilized these skills.
- Reflect on Challenges:
- Discuss any challenges or setbacks you’ve faced and how you’ve overcome them. Admissions committees value resilience and the ability to learn from adversity.
- Connect with the University:
- Explain why you’re interested in that particular university and how their program aligns with your goals. Mention specific faculty members, courses, research opportunities, or facilities that attracted you.
- Be Genuine and Unique:
- Your personal statement should reflect your authentic voice. Avoid clichés and generic statements. Share your unique perspective and experiences that make you stand out from the crowd. What makes you different is what the admissions officer needs to know about you.
- Be Concise and Clear:
- Keep your writing clear, concise, and organized. Adhere to any word or character limits provided.
- Proofread and Edit:
- Revise your personal statement for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Ask teachers, mentors, or friends to review it and provide you with feedback. Multiple rounds of editing are crucial.
- Positive Conclusion:
- Wrap up your personal statement by reiterating your enthusiasm for the program and expressing your eagerness to contribute to the university community.
- Start Early:
- Give yourself enough time to write, revise, and edit your personal statement. Rushing through this process can lead to overlooked mistakes and ultimately, an ineffective statement.
What to Avoid
To ensure that your statement remains focused, professional, and effective, here’s a list of things you should generally avoid:
- Irrelevant Information: Stay on topic and focus on your academic and personal achievements, experiences, and aspirations relevant to the program you’re applying for.
- Personal Problems or Drama: Avoid discussing personal problems, family issues, or negative experiences that could make the admissions committee uncomfortable. The personal statement should focus on your strengths and accomplishments.
- Controversial or Sensitive Topics: Refrain from discussing controversial or sensitive topics that might offend or alienate the readers. This includes religious or political views unless directly relevant to your chosen field of study. Keep your tone respectful and inclusive.
Unrelated Hobbies or Interests: While it’s okay to mention hobbies or interests, make sure they are somehow connected to your chosen field of study or demonstrate relevant skills.
- Overused Quotes or Clichés: This includes statements like “I’ve always wanted to study X” without explaining why or providing context. Admissions committees want to hear your unique perspective, not rehashed phrases.
- Negative Views on Other Fields or Institutions: Avoid criticizing other fields of study, universities, or programs. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of the program you’re applying for.
- Exaggerations or False Information: Be honest and accurate in your portrayal of yourself and your experiences. Exaggerating or providing false information can harm your credibility.
- Jokes or Humor: Humor can be subjective and may not translate well in a formal context. What might be funny to you could be misunderstood by the admissions committee.
- Repeating Your Resumé: Your personal statement should complement your resumé or CV, not repeat it verbatim. Use this opportunity to delve deeper into your experiences and motivations.
- Long Personal Histories: While a brief personal anecdote can be an effective attention grabber, avoid lengthy personal histories that don’t directly tie into your academic goals.
- Negativity or Self-Doubt: Present yourself confidently and positively. Avoid self-deprecating or negative language that undermines your accomplishments or goals.
- Quotations as Substitutes: While quotes can be inspiring, don’t rely on them as a substitute for your own words. Your personal statement should reflect your thoughts and experiences.
- Name-Dropping Unnecessarily: Mentioning famous people or renowned scholars without any substantial connection to your story may come across as insincere.
- Technical Jargon: Avoid using excessive technical jargon that might be unfamiliar to those outside your field. Remember that the admissions committee might have diverse backgrounds.
- Rambling or Excessive Length: Sticking to the word or character limits – usually 4000 characters or 47 lines – is important to show your ability to communicate effectively. On the other hand, if you’re struggling to find anything to say, have you applied for the right course?
A personal statement is a chance to present yourself beyond your grades and test scores. It’s an opportunity to showcase your personality, aspirations, and commitment to your chosen field professionally and engagingly.
Every piece of information you include should contribute to this overall objective. Make the most of it to leave a lasting impression on the admissions committee.
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