How to write a Personal Statement for University admission

10 February, 2021
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Personal Statement – what is it?

Personal Statement is sometimes called Statement of Purpose (SOP) as a personal statement gives clear statement of your purpose of choosing to study a certain course at certain institution. From my own point of view, it should be called ‘Personal Statement of Purpose’.

Normally, you will require submitting this statement with the admission application along with your academic credentials. It is an opportunity for you to tell the selectors why you think you would be a suitable student for the course you are applying and why the University should select your application over those of the other candidates. It is therefore vitally important that you make this statement as effective as possible.


Personal Statement – how much you need to write?

As a general guideline, the length of personal statement should be between 500 to 800 words, roughly 5 paragraphs. The length may vary for foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate courses and as per chosen subject type. Besides, some special courses may require specific inclusion of certain statements. You should always check with your chosen university if they have any specific requirements.

You should present your key strengths i.e. academic grades, soft skills, work experience (if any), extra-curricular achievements precisely to give enough accounts for your eligibility. Very brief statement may not gain selectors’ heart and unnecessary large statement may ruin the selection chart. A well designed and carefully measured statement can win selectors’ heart and chart both.

Personal Statement – DOs & DON’Ts

Personal Statement – 13 things to do

  • Start with a splendid sentence to keep the reader interested;
  • Use simple words, small sentences and easy languages;
  • Write in small paragraphs and make them coherent and connected;
  • Maintain logical sequence of narration while developing readers’ interest till the last word;
  • Provide clear and specific information with facts and figures;
  • Establish connections with current you and your future pursuance;
  • Only mention accomplishments that are relevant to your chosen course;
  • Be assertive and show genuine interests and commitments;
  • Be yourself and use natural & fluent language;
  • Make it an advertisement to sell your eligibility;
  • Check spelling, punctuations, grammar for correctness;
  • Get it read by someone else to identify missing points;
  • Check it with admission selection criteria and revise it few times till you are fully satisfied.

Personal Statement – 13 things to avoid

  • Cliché i.e. ‘From my early childhood, I have been dreaming………………’ type expression;
  • Starting every sentence with 1st person singular number i.e. ‘I……….’
  • Quotation by scholars or famous people to justify your statement;
  • Unnecessary flattery i.e. ‘I have chosen this world-famous University………’ type statement;
  • Comparison with other universities to prove how your chosen one is better;
  • Difficult words, complex sentence and big paragraph;
  • Negative expressions or rhetorical questions to make a point;
  • Repetition of similar expression given in earlier section;
  • Dramatic expression or declamatory style to impress readers;
  • Lying about your ability and attainments; exaggerating yourself;
  • Listing unrelated hobbies nothing to do with your chosen course;
  • Editing or writing part of your statement by someone else ;
  • Casual approach and inattentiveness in the formation of the statement


Personal Statement - how the writing guidelines help


Without guidelines

With guidelines











Personal Statement – what and how to write?

Your choice of course and why

At the very start, point out clearly which course and subject you are looking to study (if you are applying via UCAS where you may choose few universities, use generic subject name i.e. business, management etc.). Briefly state why you want to study this subject i.e. International MBA, MSc Finance, how the qualification will enhance your current academic level and boost your career prospects. Keep this paragraph limited to 3 to 5 sentences.


How you are eligible for the course

In this paragraph, specify how your past and current relevant academic attainments, practical skills, work & volunteering  experiences (if any) will help and complement your chosen study subject, establish similarities and show relationships. Besides, mention about your critical analysis skills, transferable skills, problem-solving skills, organisational skills, leadership skills and point out how these will enrich your prospective study. State your extra-curricular achievements to show your engagements above and beyond your academic achievements. Remember not to just give a list of your achievements, but specify clearly how those have benefited you academically, professionally and personally and how those can be integrated to your chosen course to realise your academic and career plans. Here, you should be able to assertively establish how your chosen course is the right course for you and how you are eligible and suitable to study this.


Learning target and progression plan

In this section, give an assertion of your learning targets from your chosen course and how that will provide you advanced level knowledge and skills, how the qualification will transform you academically, professionally and personally. Be specific about learning outcomes and career opportunities i.e. plan to open career in particular industry and likely positions etc. If your chosen course is at or below bachelor level and if you have plan to do a follow up course to top up your knowledge, do not be shy to clarify that.  Mention your short, medium and long term goals after completion of the chosen course.


Why the chosen University

Here, tell the selectors, with facts and figures, why you have chosen to study at their University. Point out which resources, strengths, facilities, supports the faculty provides for your chosen subject that made you choose the University, why you have thought this University is unique  i.e. the University offers something that are not available elsewhere. You may also include their latest student satisfaction percentage, employment percentage after graduation etc. (Students who will be applying through UCAS do not need to write this paragraph unless they are choosing only 1 option out of 5 available). Please do not be negligent to research your chosen University’s website and relevant pages to gather clear information and facts.


Why the chosen country

The last paragraph should be dedicated to state why you have chosen to study in the country of your chosen University, how you will be significantly more benefitted by studying in that country comparing to your home country or other major higher study abroad countries. Develop your argument with logical and factual information.


Personal Statement – last words

The above steps are general guidelines for you to help you designing an effective Personal Statement of Purpose for University admission. There is no specific format or formula for this – it is advisable that before starting to write this, ask your chosen university to find out if they have any specific recommendations or requirements.

Remember, personal statement, as the name suggests, is a statement that is very ‘personal’ to you – related to your past and current attainments and your future pursuance. Therefore, it has to be an ‘original’ statement – if it is copied from somewhere else or written by someone else, it won’t be personal anymore and on the other hand, it may constitute to plagiarism and your admission application can be cancelled or unsuccessful. 

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