You’ve probably come across a term personal statement while you were reading the list of requirements your college application has to meet in order to be taken into consideration. What’s more, personal statement as well as the statement of purpose is the essential part of your application.
While it’s understandable that you want to get everything done as soon as possible, you should still take some time and focus on each step of the process to avoid common pitfalls. When you know what to include and how to write the application essay it gets easier to complete it.
Personal Statement Definition
Due to the fact that personal statement is not like other documents you need for college admission, it’s easy to struggle with understanding its primary objective. That’s why it’s necessary to define the term first. Statement of purpose, or personal statement, is a paper or document wherein a student is meant to give concrete evidence of his/her promise as a member of the academic community and depict an image of their personality to the committee.
The personal statement goes by many names including application essay, admission essay, personal essay, reflective essay, and narrative essay. Regardless of the term provided in the application materials, your goal is to represent your full potential, describe hopes, goals, and talents that make you a perfect fit for that college. When writing the statement of purpose, it is necessary to demonstrate how your values, non-traditional educational background, and other factors have influenced the academic career.
There is no one size fits all rule for personal statements. Every student can use their own unique approach to show what makes them ideal for some particular institution.
Types of College Statements
In writing, there is no such thing as one, generic form of anything and personal statement isn’t the exception. We can divide these statements into two forms:
- The general or comprehensive personal statement – gives a student the maximum freedom regarding the things they want to write. Also referred to as the open topic essay, this type of a statement only has formatting rules you have to follow, everything else is up to you. You just have to create a perfect way to represent yourself and start writing;
- The response to a specific question – unlike the above-mentioned type of a statement of purpose, this form requires students to answer adequately to a certain question in order to demonstrate their knowledge, expertise, skills, and plans for the future We can also divide personal statements based on the programs, undergraduate and college graduate.
College Personal Statement
College graduate personal statements usually involve questions a student has to answer throughout the essay. This type of admission essay is considered more demanding and advanced. The reason why you’re more likely to write the response to a specific question is simple – the graduate applicant is expected to have a certain level of independent thinking.
By the time they graduate, students develop critical thinking skills and they get more experience in life. As a result, you also have a clear idea of what you want to study further and how a certain program can help you achieve that goal.
Bearing in mind that most graduate programs include some form of financial aid wherein a student has to return for research work or teaching, the applicant has to demonstrate he/she is capable of that work. This explains why a vast majority of personal statements for graduate students focus on applicants’ academic and professional interests rather than vague subjects.
Undergraduate Personal Statement
Application essays for undergraduate students usually fall into the category of general or comprehensive statements. You have the liberty to write a statement that shows your motivation, inspiration, and other factors that make you an ideal candidate.
Why do undergraduate students write open topic essays instead of a response to a certain question? At this point, a student is eager to learn, start a new chapter in life, and finally step into the adulthood. That being said, the applicant doesn’t really have any idea of what will come after college.
For students who want to enroll in the underground program, the focus is on demonstrating how he/she has explored interests and world around them. They talk about their passions and desires while demonstrating how they relate to other people, forms opinions, and show a glimpse of their personality.
Writing a Personal Statement
Thousands of thoughts go through our mind on a daily basis, but when we’re supposed to sit down and start writing it’s difficult to think of something usable. The problem becomes even worse when the text you have to write can make or break your chances of getting your application accepted. No need to despair! With a few simple tips and tricks, you can create your personal statement easier than you thought.
Guidelines for Writing Personal Statement
The personal statement isn’t something you should do just to “get it over with”, this type of essay requires a lot of thinking and analyzing. You have to evaluate your own hopes, dreams, passion, motivation, academic success, or even high school education (if you’re just about to enroll into the college) and many other things before you determine what and how to write.
To make this process easier for you, follow the guidelines listed below:
- Take a few moments to think of information you want to include (or how to answer a specific question);
- Create a draft without focusing on word count and character length, just write whatever comes to your mind;
- Don’t rush, take your time. You don’t have to complete your personal statement in an hour or a day;
- Consider a dictionary your best friend, it will help you avoid overusing some words. Plus, your personal statement should also demonstrate vocabulary skills;
- Focus on your strengths, but mention specific examples rather than making it look like you’re bragging;
- Don’t compare your personal statement to someone else’s. Two people have different experiences and views of the world around them;
- Read it out loud to see whether it seems right.
Structure and Format of Personal Statement
The secret to a high-quality personal statement is in the format. Let’s take a look at the outline you should follow:
At the very beginning of the admission essay, start by briefly introducing yourself, interests and motivations. This is a short paragraph that acts like a hook, it catches a reader’s attention and makes them interested in you and your personality.
Academic interests and achievements
Regardless of whether you’re undergraduate or graduate student, there’s always something you can write about your education so far. Don’t exaggerate anything, focus on facts and show your interests, achievements, or plans you have for your academic life.
Graduate students can also include a description of specific classes they’ve taken and professors they’ve had.
If your task is to write an open topic essay, then it’s useful to dedicate a paragraph to background experiences which aren’t directly related to academic life but have made a major influence on your life and education in general.
This isn’t about hobbies and other stuff. Instead, you should focus on extracurricular activities associated with your field. For example, you can list projects where you participated, volunteer work, and other activities you joined outside the school, but greatly contribute to your choice of the study program, college, etc.
Publications or other Professional Accomplishments
In this paragraph, students can briefly mention publications where their works were published. This is primarily reserved for graduate students who have already participated in some academic researches.
Why You’ve Chosen the Specific College/Program
It’s always useful to describe why you’ve chosen the specific college or program and if you haven’t done it somewhere above, now is a good time to add this info.
Conclude your personal statement with a strong paragraph where you’ll summarize your greatest strengths that make you a perfect person for the specific program.
How to write a good Personal Statement
You know the basic guidelines and format for your statement of purpose, but to write a great essay, you should also follow these tips:
- Write in an enthusiastic, concise, and natural style;
- Try not to overdo it with humor, your admission officer may not have the same sense of humor so it won’t accomplish anything;
- Think about the message you want to convey and work your way to it;
- Avoid general commentary;
- Use examples;
- Be careful with controversial comments and expression, try to avoid them;
- After you’ve written the first draft, start editing and proofreading to ensure your personal statement meets required word count.
What to include in a Personal Statement
To impress the committee, your personal statement should:
- Explain why you want to study the course;
- Provide evidence to demonstrate that not only you meet all the criteria, but also that you took the time to research the course or profession;
- Outline how you’ve pursued the interest in a chosen subject beyond the current syllabus;
- Depict why you chose that particular college for your academic education;
- Reflect on your experiences and explain what you’ve learned from them and how they helped you develop interest in a certain subject;
- Demonstrate transferable skills;
- Show that you are a critical thinker;
- Mention the long-term goals.
Now that you know what to include in your personal statement, here are some things you should leave out of it:
- Don’t copy and paste your old personal statement;
- Too personal and irrelevant information;
- Over-used clichés;
- Random lists;
- Unproven claims;
- Vague expressions;
- Negative comments or excuses.
Personal Statement Examples
It’s all about practice and proper topic selection (if you have the liberty to do so). The more you write this type of essay, the easier it will be to create it for your college admission. Below, you can see examples of personal statement essays for both graduate and undergraduate students.
Personal Statement for College Examples
- What are the reasons you wish to pursue the graduate program and how does it relate to your career goals?
- What are your qualifications for admission?
- How do you see your career in five years from now?
- What are the experiences in your academic life that shaped your interests in the graduate program?
- What are the greatest challenges your profession faces right now and how will this graduate program help you overcome them?
In movies, a teenage girl carrying around a journal is cliché or means that she has something to hide. In my life having a journal means so much more. Writing an entry puts my bottled emotions into words.
There was this one specific day in school, I was having a rollercoaster of emotions. My boredom slowly turned into anger that’s when I pulled out my journal. During that one sitting, I wrote six poems. I looked back at my writing and I was proud of myself, proud that I turn my negative emotions into something creative and positive. From that day on I always carried around that journal from essays to poems, even if I didn’t write in it knowing that I could anytime I needed gave me a sense of security. It seems to give me power over my emotions. However ever since I started carrying my journal I noticed in school whenever I would take it out people would stare trying to catch a glimpse of my words. Before I used to conceal and hide my pedophile that I wrote in my journal, but now I handed them my book I haven’t told them to write a page. I was not only becoming more creative in my writing but I was the coming more confident. I can say I’ve changed my mindset thinking if having a journal impact of me like this it could help someone else. I saw people face light up when I handed them my book to write in they felt special. Soon my journal became a gallery of peoples emotions.
People trusted me with their thoughts and they express them through drawings, poems, songs, or even essays. So many people were inspired by my journal they started journaling. It showed me how journaling is almost therapeutic. I was happier and what use to be writing only sometimes became and the everyday thing even my vocabulary was growing. Having this hardcover book with me made me feel like I could be anything and everything I wanted I was able to put out my thoughts and understand them and it felt so good.
Journaling impacted my life so much I’m thinking of majoring in Media and Communications hearing people’s thoughts including my own and putting them out for the world to hear them. The world is just a big diary ready to be made a mark on. Writing eventually turns into saying how you feel and I want to be that journal to people. I want to understand people’s emotions and share them.
And that’s why I’m so into journaling just knowing whenever my feelings feel like they’re getting to be too much documenting them and expressing them not only internally but on paper. I never knew one simple experience can change how I feel about my future. I believe in it because I think it works and it keeps me sane. Journaling may be cliché but the things within those pages are far from that.
Undergraduate Personal Statement Examples
- Discuss accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked personal growth and a new understanding of yourself and others.
- Recount a time when you faced a challenge or setback.
- How did it affect you and what did you learn from it?
- Describe a problem you solved or an issue you would like to solve.
- A person who inspires you.
- What do you want to accomplish in life?
Sample Personal Statement
We live in the 21st century, in the era of the internet and media. It is safe to say that media is the most powerful entity on the planet. Education is vital for every individual as it shapes our views of the world and prepares us for a career that comes after. I wish to combine media and education in order to fulfill my ambition to become a journalist. Although media is a force to be reckoned with, we witness the rise of low-quality journalists who focus on clickbait posts and reports. I want to use the platform to raise awareness of important issues and give my contribution to society.
Experience is everything, and despite the fact I am not a person who spent years working as a journalist, my education has given me a solid foundation where I can build my career. Throughout my high school education, I have worked as an editor of school papers and website. Not only did I report current events, but I also strived to address common concerns of my fellow students, spark debates which contributed to major changes that improved the learning experience and atmosphere among students.
Thanks to my strong work ethic, reaching any deadline is not a problem and my curiosity motivates me to learn more. Reasons I want to enroll in this program are numerous. Based on my research, it was easy to conclude this is the program that will help me become the journalist I really want to be. The program will help me improve writing skills, master the art of journalism, and grow on a personal and professional level.
Personal Statement Editing and Writing Service
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Things You Will Improve Through Personal Statement
- Writing skills, because you’ll know what mistakes to avoid
- Your chances of getting an acceptance letter
- Professionally looking personal statement that will impress every admission officer
- Peace of mind
People sometimes think that there is a trick to writing a personal statement for Oxford, or that we are looking for some special secret formula, but this is not the case. Writing a personal statement for Oxford is no different from writing a personal statement for any other university. In fact it’s important to remember that the same wording will be seen by all the universities you apply to and should therefore focus on the course you want to study, not the universities themselves. Please read this helpful advice from UCAS about writing your personal statement.
How important is the personal statement?
Universities build a picture of you as a student from all the different information you provide, to help decide whether or not to offer you a place. The picture is made up of several different pieces: your personal statement, academic record, predicted A-level grades (or equivalent), and your teacher's reference. For most courses at Oxford you will also need to take an admissions test or submit written work as well (check the details for your course). If your application is shortlisted, your interview will also be taken in to account. This means that your personal statement is important but it’s not everything: it’s just one part of the overall picture.
What are Oxford tutors looking for?
Tutors at Oxford are only interested in your academic ability and potential. They want to see that you are truly committed to the subject or subjects you want to study at university but it’s not enough just to say that you have a passion for something: you need to show tutors how you have engaged with your subject, above and beyond whatever you have studied at school or college. This can include any relevant extracurricular activities.
Try to avoid writing your personal statement as though you are ticking things off a list. There is no checklist of required achievements, and tutors will not just scan what you have written to look for key words or phrases. Tutors will read your personal statement to try to understand what has motivated you to apply for their course. It’s a good idea to evaluate your experiences, to show what you have learned from them and how they have helped develop your understanding of your subject.
Should I include extracurricular activities?
If you're applying for competitive courses, which includes any course at Oxford, we typically suggest that you focus around 80% of your personal statement on your academic interests, abilities and achievements. This can include discussion of any relevant extracurricular activities. The remaining 20% can then cover any unrelated extracurricular activities.
There’s a myth that Oxford is looking for the most well-rounded applicants, and that you will only be offered a place if you have a long list of varied extracurricular activities. In fact, extracurricular activities are only helpful in so far as they demonstrate the selection criteria for your course.
Do I need experience of work and travel?
We understand that not everyone has the opportunity to do work experience or to go travelling so these activities are not a requirement for any of our courses. Tutors won’t be impressed by your connections, or the stamps in your passport, but they will be impressed by how you’ve engaged with your subject.
For example, some of our applicants for Medicine may have had work experience placements in prestigious hospitals but not be able to evaluate their time there. If you have no more experience than some simple voluntary work, or even just discussing medical matters with your friends and family, you can still write an effective personal statement by reflecting critically on what you have learned and discussed.
To give another example, for the History of Art, tutors will not want to hear about all the galleries and exhibitions that you have visited around the world if you cannot discuss the art that you saw. You can come across more effectively in your personal statement by evaluating art you have seen, even if you’ve only seen it online or in books without ever leaving the school library.
Don’t be put off by any friends who you think have more impressive things to say in their personal statements. Remember that tutors do not have a checklist of achievements that they are looking for: they want to see how you have engaged with your subject.
I’m applying to different courses at different universities – how should I write my personal statement?
If you are thinking of applying for completely different courses at different universities (eg Physics and Accounting, or Biology and Music) we’d encourage you to reconsider. It’s important to choose a subject area that you really want to study, and focus on that one area when making your applications. Also, you can only write one personal statement which will be seen by all the universities to which you apply, so it needs to be relevant for all your courses.
If you are thinking of applying for related courses at different universities then we suggest that you avoid using course titles in your personal statement. We recommend that you write about your interest in the general course themes, and how you have engaged with relevant subject areas, so that your personal statement is equally relevant for each of your course choices.
Does my personal statement need to stand out?
Students sometimes feel that they need to say something dramatic to stand out from the crowd and be really memorable in their personal statement but this is not true. Applying to Oxford is not like a talent show where you may only have a few seconds to make an impression. Tutors consider each application carefully on its individual merits, looking for evidence of your commitment and ability. If you use your personal statement to demonstrate your academic abilities and your engagement with your subject or subjects, then your application will be memorable for all the right reasons.
Where should I start?
Think about talking to your friends about what you want to study at university: what would you tell them? What have you read or watched or seen that has inspired you? (This might have been at school, at home, in a museum, on TV, in a book, on YouTube or a podcast or anywhere else.) Why was it interesting? What do you want to find out next? What did you do?
If you find this difficult, it might be time to think about whether or not you’ve really chosen the right course. If you can’t think of anything that has inspired you, this lack of enthusiasm will probably come across in your personal statement, or it will become clear at interview, and you’re unlikely to gain a place at Oxford. If you find it easy to answer these questions, you will have a long list of ideas to help you write your personal statement.
When you start to write, remember not just to list your achievements but show how they have affected you, how you have benefited, and what you’d like to learn next. Be honest about yourself and what has inspired you, whether that’s been text books, museums and literature, or websites, podcasts and blogs. Be sure to tell the truth, as tutors might check later, so don’t exaggerate and certainly don’t make any false claims. Don’t hold back either – this is no time for modesty.
When you've written a first draft, have a look back at the selection criteria for your course and think about the evidence you've given for each of the criteria. Have you covered everything?
How many versions should I write?
Ask a teacher to read through what you’ve written, listen to their feedback and then make any updates that they suggest. You may need two or three tries to get it right. Don’t keep writing and rewriting your statement though, as it is more important to keep up with your school or college work, and to explore your subject with wider reading. (See suggested reading and resources.)
Some dos and don’ts
- DON’T be tempted to make anything up, as you might be asked about it at interview.
- DON’T copy anyone else’s personal statement. UCAS uses plagiarism detection software.
- DON'T list qualifications like your GCSE grades or anything else that's covered elsewhere on the application.
- DON’T just list your other achievements: you need to evaluate them.
- DON'T feel the need to be dramatic in order to be memorable.
- Apply for a course you really want to study.
- Be yourself: tell the truth about your interests.
- Sell yourself: this is not the time for modesty.
- Reread your personal statement before an interview – the tutors will.
- Read the UCAS guidance on personal statements.