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Guide on writing your Personal Statement + Samples

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Aim of the personal statement

Brainstorming and planning

Writing the personal statement

Small tips to remember and keep in mind

Things to NOT put into and avoid in your personal statement

Links to sample personal statements

Bio-Aqua's Personal Statement Outline

Sample statements from IBSurvival members

Aim of the personal statement

Because not all universities interview their students, the personal statement is a way for you to let the university know more about yourself, other than just what the application form requires - the mudane information such as your grades, etc.

If you are applying to a popular university course, and everyone applying is likely to have good grades, the personal statement is the only thing that tells you apart from other applicants, it defines you to the admission officer, so you want to try and make yours as good as possible. It's also the one thing you have control over in your whole application - it's where you can choose what you want to tell the admission officer!

When the admissions and subject officers look at your personal statement, they are likely to be asking the following questions:

1. Do we want this student on this course?

2. Do we want this student at this university?

And you have to convince them that they do! A good personal statement can give the admission officer a good impression of you and may get you an offer despite the fact that your grade may not be the best.

In short, the personal statement is about you, your qualities, and what makes you shine. It's where you make yourself stand out to get where you want to be.

Brainstorming and planning

Before you even start writing your statement, brainstorm and plan first! Yes, plan. There are so many things you can say in your statement, it’s necessary to plan otherwise you end up waffling.

So, some things to consider talking about in your statement:

Your university and course:

  • What you want to study at university and why
  • Specific aspects of the courses that interest you
  • Things you have studied related to the subject area
  • Work experience or voluntary work in this area
  • Conferences you have attended relating to this area
  • Personal experiences which lead to the decision to take this subject
  • Where you hope a degree in this subject will lead.

Experiences which show you are a reliable and responsible person. This includes:

  • Part-time job
  • Community and charity work
  • School committees, teams, student organisations
  • Helping out at school events.
  • Any major student conferences and/or activities you’ve attended such as the Model United Nations or something similar.
  • Your CAS activities (yes, now they come useful, don’t they?)

Your interests and skills

  • What you like to do in your free time
  • Sport and leisure activities
  • Musical instrument which you play
  • Languages which you speak
  • Prizes you have won or positions achieved in your interest

You could also touch on your IB experience, especially areas of the IB such as:

  • Academic research – especially the EE
  • Dealing with workload and stress
  • TOK – critical thinking

If you’re taking a gap year:

  • Why you want to take a gap year?
  • What you plan to do?
  • How this may relate to your course.

Writing the personal statement

The personal statement is usually written in essay format, though it may not necessarily have to have a definite introduction like an academic essay. Your introduction (first paragraph) may be telling the reader a bit about yourself and your choice of the university and the course. From there, you can move on to talk about your academic achievements, your extra-curricular activities, experiences and so on.

This may sound very obvious, but it never hurts to be emphasised: use paragraphs! Plan out your paragraphs, make sure your statement has a natural flow.

Now, it’s obviously impossible for you to include all of your brainstomring ideas in your personal statement.

The most important part of your personal statement is the part where you talk about your course. You have to convince the adminission officer that you want to do this course and at their university. You could have great grades and references but if you cannot convince the admission officer you are commited to the course and know what you’re getting yourself into, applying for this course, you will not be able to get an offer.

Choose the information you do include in the statement carefully. Make sure every point you make does something to convince the admission officer you deserve to go to this university. Be concise and to the point, do not waffle. You have limited space, and the admission officer has limited time. Use that space and time well. Your statement should not be longer than 2 A4 pages, typed. If a statement is too long, the admission officer will either gloss over it and not read it carefully or not read it altogether! (If you're applying through UCAS there's a limit on the number of characters you can type, so you can't write longer even if you wanted.)

Like with most essays, you should make sure that you spend adequate time on you opening and your ending. Those are usually the most important part of any essay and one that would leave most impression on the reader's mind. An opening that is engaging, interesting and draws in the reader gives them a good first impression of you. A good ending increases the chance of the reader remembering what you wrote. It's probably a good idea to start with why you want to take your subject, and finish with why you want to go to university or what you want to do next, since it wraps up your purpose in writing the personal statement - to try and get accepted at the university.

Small tips to remember and keep in mind

Again and again, this is about you! Be egotistical - i.e. talk about your good qualities. Don't shy away from exhibiting your good points. You're supposed to say the good things about you so that they make you stand out. However, at the same time, don't sound arrogant and/or pretentious about it!

When talking about your weaknesses and limitations, don't just list them. Let the person reading your statement know that you realise it's a shortcoming and your actions in overcoming it. Show that you are willing to face your weaknesses and are doing something about it. Think to yourself, why are you telling them about this limitation of yours? What does it say about you and how might it help you get into university?

Make sure that your spelling and grammar is correct. Always have someone read over your statement before you finalise it and send it off. Make sure you don't have silly typos or grammar mistakes. Those can lower your chances by a significant amount.

Have someone to read over your statement not only to proofread it for you but also to see if they can pick up on things that perhaps they, from an outsider's point of view, think should not be incldued because it may portray you negatively in some way. Outsider input is very important!

Things to NOT put into and avoid in your personal statement

Don't try to be funny or make jokes in your statement: I had several people emphasised this to me when I did my statement. Admission officers are not supposed to have a sense of humour. Jokes don't prove anything to the admission officer. It just seems like a cheap way to try to impress the admission officer...which often times it doesn't.

Don't start every sentence with I: Yes, you're supposed to be egotistic and use "I" in your statement, but don't make it a monotonous start to every paragraph. Be creative and diverse. Don't start your paragraphs all the same way.

Don't include your hobbies and interests unless they are relevant: Simple, if it's not relevant, it's not helping you and you're wasting words, your time, the admission officer's time, achieving nothing.

Don't use vocabulary you don't normally use and just looked up in a dictionary: Make it sounds authentic, make it sound like you! This is about you, not about the dictionary or how many big words you can look up. Write like you normally would, in your own words.

Don't use famous quotes in your statement: Again, this is about you!!

Don't repeat things already on your application form: There's no point. They don't need to read the same thing twice.

Don't write a list of all your hobbies and interests without explaining them: This is basic essay writing skill. Don't just list things, but say what's significant about them. You have this interest, so what?

Don't lie or embellish the truth: Don't. Lying never gets you anywhere. Even if you think they won't be able to find out...well, maybe they can. You might be having your teachers write you a reference letter than contradict what you say, for example.

Don't include boring phrases or hobbies which everyone does: It doesn't make you stand out and it wastes word.

Don't take any political viewpoints or express views that may be offensive to others: Because it can offend the admission officers. They are human after all, and if

they get a bad impression of you...well...goodbye.

Post by: Ruan Chun Xian

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Bio-Aqua's Personal Statement Outline

Good day everyone,

This is a thread dedicated to the Personal Statement. You ought to read the original post before you continue. After doing so and following the steps mentioned in the thread, you reach the second step which is reading this thread! :lol:

OK, so you brainstormed and wrote down all you need to start that statement.. Now what? There is an outline you need to follow:

- Introduction: Make it eye-catching and straightforward. You can include some imagination but get to the point. Talk about WHAT you want to study in the university (your major). Is it Medicine? Engineering? Law? Media Studies?... State it directly, but do include your personal touch.

- Main Body P1: Include WHY you want to study this course. Talk about your personal interests, strengths and/or things you have been through which made you decide that this is the thing for you. Include any IB subjects that are relevant to the course and what you have benefited from them.

- Main Body P2: Now, talk about the country of choice and the university you are going to. How are they special? Why do you want to go there and what will you add to the university? You might include the following:

- Exposure to different cultures and backgrounds

- Interpersonal (with other people) and Intrapersonal (with self) skills

- Hands-on experience (Emalgamating with people)

- Location/ reputation

- Highly reputable/renowned university

- Excellent level of education

- Main Body P3: Your extra curricular activities. Mention the activities (whether CAS or non-CAS ones) AND the skills they helped you develop, which are integral to the course of your choice.

- Conclusion: (max 3 sentences) Your plans for the future.

This is just a simple plan for you to get all your notes together. After doing your first draft, you have to keep on correcting it until you perfect it. It's like an EE, which needs to be done again and again until you feel that it deserves an A or at least a B.

If you need any help in your personal statements, feel free to contact me via your personal messenger. I will maintain the confidentiality level and won't give your PS to anyone anywhere. However, please note that I can only get back to you once given the chance (on weekends or during week days if I'm free). In case it is urgent, do note that in your PM and I will make it a top priority. Also, note that it is first-come-first-serve basis, so be patient! >.< Once given to me, I will correct it and send it back to you with some comments, so correct them and send it back.

Thank you very much and have a wonderful day everyone. :D



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Personal Statements & College App Essays, US style

Hey guys. I just wanted to talk about the flavor of personal statements or college applications essays in the United States. Most times, an application won't ask for a personal statement. It'll ask you to write an essay and give you word or character guidelines. Sometimes, an application will ask for multiple essays, which might be shorter in length. Sometimes, it'll allow for an optional essay.

One key difference is that usually, when you apply to a college/university in the US, the admissions officers aren't going to have quotas. That is, they won't be like 'okay we can have 300 pre-med majors, 300 pre-law majors, 75 English majors, etc.' This means that you're not competing for a spot on their department/school/program. You're trying to get into the entire uni. [There are several unis where you must apply to a specific school/department, so you know you're competing for a spot based on what you want to major in. Often the application will give you chances to show why they should pick you, specifically related to the field that you're looking into. Cornell Uni comes to my mind. You have to pick one or max two schools you're applying to in Cornell and write essays telling the admissions of the separate schools why they should pick you and why you picked their school. These essays should be about why you're interested in that school and what you can offer them.]

Admissions people are often looking to admit students who will contribute to their atmosphere. For this reason, the college essay or personal statement has got to show your voice. Be funny if you want. As long as it's not forced or crude, you should do well. If you're not a funny person by nature, don't try to write a funny essay. If you're serious, be serious. If you have an opinion, that's great. Put it in your essay if that's what you want to do. One thing you want to avoid at all costs--make sure you don't sound judgmental or close-minded. Remember, the admissions people are trying to imagine that you're a student at their school. They don't want snobby students who won't get the most out of the resources and opportunities they're given.

So what can your essay be about? There's a pretty amazing list a couple of posts up ^^

What you want to aim for is to have an essay that no one but you can write. This doesn't mean you can't talk about something that lots of people experience. It means that you have to show the admissions officers that you have a unique take on a common experience or that you've been given a unique opportunity and you've grown from it.

What you probably don't want to do: talk about everything on that amazing list up there. Pick one theme. What do you want to tell the admissions people about you? You're passion for sculpture? The death of a family member and its impact on you? Failure and how you've grown from it? Pick something that is an integral part of you. Take that aspect of you and try to think of an example of it. Rather than saying you're resilient, write about the time that your doctors said you'd never be able to read above an elementary level and how you've proven them wrong. Better yet, tell them about the hours you spent tracing letters, the confusion that ensnared you, and your family's faith in you and your faith in yourself that wouldn't let you quit. 'Show, don't tell' is what everyone says. =) [by the way, you don't have to tell the most inspirational story ever. Tell your story. That's all you've got to do.]

This has already been said above, but proofread your work! A 'there' instead of 'their' CAN severely impact your chances of admission. They're [haha] thinking if you can't even put enough time into proofreading your work, why should they give you a chance? Also, it's easy to be unsure of your work after you've finished. People say that you have to go through lots of rough drafts of an essay before it's close enough to perfection. One thing you don't want to do is get 5,000 [or 5.000, whichever is the bigger number to you] to read your paper. Guess what? They're going to have different opinions. Conflicting opinions. Who are you going to listen to? Listen to yourself. It's your essay. Your voice. Opinions and suggestions are great, but don't let your essay turn into your father's or your teacher's or your pastor's or whoever's. If the admissions people wanted your father's essay, they'd be recruiting him.

Lastly, there's some amazing advice in the posts above. A lot of things are the same. Don't be cocky, but don't sell yourself short. Use the essay to show a new side of you, but don't lie. If you don't think the uni can accept you for you, trust me, if you get in, you might be missing out on your real dream school some place else. Believe in yourself, or how will they believe in you? And if a uni rejects your application, it is in no way rejecting you. You are not your application, and you don't need some uni's approval to be deemed a good student. =) If you want more specific advice, ask. This forum is your friend. & you can always PM me. We're not competing. Who really wants to be the last one standing? Good luck. Be happy with yourself.

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