K M Enayet Hossain
10 February, 2021

3.3 min read


How to write a Personal Statement for University application

Learn how to write a powerful personal statement that would impress the university admission officer: expert tips for writing personal statements for undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

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 1000 words, roughly 5 paragraphs (47 lines or 4,000 characters for UCAS personal statement). 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

Quality 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 i.e. UK  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. 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q How to write the opening lines of personal statement?

A You should start your personal statement with specific, clear and concise message to the admission officer. Tips to write the opening lines of personal statement

  • Be assertive, firm in your statement
  • Make a statement about your objectives and targets
  • Make it personal, your own
  • Write in your own voice, use simple and easy English
  • Let the reader know what, where and why your applying
  • Be straightforward and candid

Example opening sentences of personal statement:

Example 1

I want to undertake the ABC course (write course title and subject name in full) of study at XYZ University (write the university name in full) to enhance mycurrent academic level to higher level and attain new advanced level knowledge to create better careeropportunities a Finance Manager in the Banking industry.

Example 2

I am keen to study the ABC course (write course title and subject name in full) at XYZ University (write the university name in full) to achieve advanced level of knowledge in the area and accomplish competitive advantage for my future career plan as a Human Resource Manager in the Real Estate industry.

Q In how many paragraphs I should format my personal statement?

A There is no set-in-stone rule for the number of paragraphs to design your personal statement. A well-structured personal statement will be broken up into five to six paragraphs. All the paragraphs should be interconnected with each other and relevant; you should develop the statement like a single short story that tells the reader about your objectives, your abilities, your future targets. Your writing should be gradually

developed and should reach to its end to leave an impressive impression in the reader’s mind. As it is your story to tell, tell it in your own words and your own voice with easy and simple English, be yourself.

Your personal statement should follow a logical, methodical structure, where each paragraph follows on from the one before. Make sure paragraphs are short, succinct, clear and to the point.

Q How can I justify my study gaps in my personal statement?

A If you have study gap/s in between in your qualifications or after your qualifications, there must be a reason or reasons for this/these – there could be extenuating circumstances (situation beyond your control) i.e. personal accident, family issues, closures of educational institutes in your country due to political problems, war etc. that might have caused your study disruptions. There is no harm mentioning this in positive notes. You would be rather appreciated for getting back on study track after fighting all those challenges.

If you have been working after your last qualification/graduation, mentioning this would strengthen your application as the skills and relevant experience gained would supplement your potential study which would boost your chances of better career position or promotion at your current employer organisation.

Q Can I copy part of the contents of personal statement from others/websites?

A: You must not copy and take contents of your personal statement from someone else’s personal statement or from online contents available on different websites. If you do this to write your personal statement, it would be considered as plagiarism (theft) and if you get caught your admission application will be cancelled.

Even if you paraphrase stolen sentences/paragraphs from others’ and insert that in the middle of your one, the statement would lose its story-telling rhythm and your personal statement will be very weak to be considered for admission acceptance.

You can take ideas about writing your personal statement by reading personal statements written by others. It is also a brilliant idea to research relevant websites to gather information and concepts before starting your own personal statement. Remain yourself and authentic throughout to write an original unique personal statement.

Please note that almost all admission officers check contents of personal statement for plagiarism.

Q Can I exaggerate my achievements/abilities or tell lies in personal statement?

A You must not exaggerate your achievements/abilities or tell lies in your personal statement. Admission officers are experts to identify any exaggeration or lies; they have vast experience in reading personal statements and catch you easily after matching your statement with the other admission documents you have submitted with your admission application. Therefore, be honest about yourself when writing it.

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