Personal statements are often one of the most crucial parts of any university application. It’s your one opportunity to convince your chosen university that you’re just the applicant they want and need. But writing about yourself can be a daunting task. That’s why we’ve put together this step-by-step guide on how to write a winning personal statement.

To keep it simple we’ve broken it down into five paragraphs, each of which has important questions you need to address. Make sure to keep your answers clear and concise; after all, you usually only have around 500 words (4000 characters) to play with. Also, try to be as specific as you can when it comes to dates and facts, as you want to make sure that your story comes across as being authentic and realistic.

 

Paragraph 1: The Hook

Grab their attention straight away by starting off your statement with a catchy sentence or introduction! This is a great opportunity to bring across your unique personality with something that is both memorable and intriguing. Then, cut to the chase by explaining which programme you are applying for and why. Discuss why you decided to study in this field and the reasons behind choosing this particular degree or programme.

Paragraph 2: Academic Pursuits

This paragraph is all about your previous studies. Go into detail about what you have studied in the past, and when. Remember to make sure that you outline the skills that you’ve gained along the way, focusing on how these will help you complete the next phase of your studies, or the new degree you are applying for. You want to make an argument for how your past studies will have a positive impact on your future studies, something which becomes even more important if you’re planning on shifting majors or going in a new direction.

Paragraph 3: Work, Work, Work

In this section, make sure you outline the work experience you’ve gained thus far. This could be anything from an internship, to owning your own business. Again, it’s important to focus on the skills that you’ve gained through these experiences, always relating them back to how they will be beneficial to you in tackling the degree you’re applying for. Also, take the opportunity to explain how your work experience has helped shape your interest in your chosen programme, or sparked a yearning to further your education.


Paragraph 4: Beyond the Basics

Now for the fun part: Use this section to truly get across who you are outside of your work and academic achievements. Talk about your hobbies, interests, volunteer activities or any additional courses you may have completed along the way. Whether you’re a part-time yoga instructor, passionate violinist, or volunteer at the local soup kitchen, this is your chance to bring your personality to life on paper. It’s a great way to show that you have more to bring to the table than the average applicant, but make sure that you emphasise how these interests and skills will complement your studies.

Paragraph 5: Towards the Future

Your final paragraph should focus on the future. Talk about how studying this new degree will prepare you for your future career, or set you up to achieve your long-term goals. Make a strong case for why studying this programme is so important to realising your ambitions and how important that is to you. In putting together this section, make sure you touch on why you want to study at that university in particular – a bit of research will go a long way here! For students who are studying abroad, it’s also important to explain why you have chosen to study in that country as opposed to other options. Are there opportunities there that you simply don’t have in your home country? Are they the leaders in your field? Do you feel that entrenching yourself in a new culture will enhance your university experience? Whatever your reasoning, this is your chance to argue your case, so make sure you do it well!

Have you sights set on America? Check out our How to Apply to a US university as an International Student blog for more application tips!

About the Author: Tessa Cunliffe is a South African based digital copywriter and marketer, with a passion for travel and learning. Yoga-inspired and coffee-fuelled. Always planning the next adventure.