For many students, applying to university is a very stressful process. And the worst part is writing a good Personal Statement (required by most universities) to stand out from the crowd of applicants.
It’s not uncommon to find yourself staring at a blank Word document, racking your brains for something original and punchy to write about yourself. We wish we could tell you “Don’t worry, it’s not that important…”, but it is.
The Personal Statement is the centrepiece of your application file, the key to landing the interview (or admission offer). The aim is to make recruiters want to meet you, to see you every day on their campus. This is your chance to explain why you are the ideal candidate for this course. You need to put yourself, for a moment, in the place of the admissions tutor, who will have a huge pile of applications on his desk. Given the growing number of applicants to university, it’s quite possible that the admissions officer will have a pile of 500 application files in front of them and that the time they can devote to examining yours will be very limited.
A good Personal Statement will show that you’re worth considering – that you know your subject, that you’re serious about it and that you’re the kind of person who has what it takes to succeed on the course.
In general, be enthusiastic in what you say, be relevant and, most importantly, be specific. The golden rule of the Personal Statement: “show don’t tell”. You need to demonstrate your skills, knowledge and qualities using explicit examples. Avoid the big, general phrases that anyone can write: “Mathematics is of great use in Business and Finance“, “Economics allows us to understand how the world functions“. Firstly, because the number of words is limited and secondly because you want to stand out and demonstrate your individuality. Here’s an example of a powerful sentence with real content: “From the non-scalable barter to the intangible cryptocurrencies, currencies are at the roots of Economics.”
The text should generally fit on one A4 page and consist of the following 3 sections:
- Why have I chosen this programme: motivations, interests, ambitions (20%)
- What makes me an ideal candidate: academic background, skills acquired, experience and achievements (40%)
- What makes me different, my added value: hobbies, personal interests (20%)
To this we add 10% for the introduction and 10% for the conclusion.
The aim is to sell yourself! So don’t be afraid to emphasize and highlight your strengths.
What’s more, it’s extremely important to make the links between your skills and the programme you’ve chosen:
- How do your main subjects prepare you for these studies?
- How have your experiences helped you to understand the challenges of the professional world you want to join?
For example, a Personal Statement for Business will talk about your knowledge of Economics, the importance of Mathematics in understanding the basics of Finance, your Leadership skills and your ability to work in a group. For International Relations, you should write about your experiences abroad, your language skills, your understanding of geopolitical issues, etc.
The icing on the cake? Your additional reading: The Economist, for those applying in Business, the New Scientist for scientists or the International Press… You can then draw parallels between current events and your field of study, demonstrate how this gives you a better understanding of the subject and deepen your thinking on the topic. All details that are sure to earn you the respect of recruiters.
Once the body of the text has been defined, and this will take several iterations, you can begin the subtle drafting of the introduction and conclusion.
Avoid quotes at all costs, recruiters can’t stand them! The key is to arouse the reader’s interest and curiosity. The best introductory sentences refer to experience. Like a brand that you want to propel into the light, it needs a story, something personal. Storytelling will help you grab your reader’s attention faster. Think about what moves you in your relationship with the chosen subject. Your interest may come from professional experience, voluntary work, hobbies/interests or studying the subject at school: ” Attending the climate protests in Geneva confirmed to me that… », « My involvement in the Infestos Foundation project in Zambia gave birth to my growing interest in… ». The best introductions are genuine and to the point. You’ll be on the right track if you show your enthusiasm for the subject, your understanding of it and your ambition to join the course.
For the conclusion? The key word is IMPACT. You want to leave the admissions officer with a strong, lasting impression that will leave him or her with no choice but to make you an offer (or invite you for an interview). In general, a good conclusion picks up on elements of your introduction while demonstrating what you expect from the university, the new challenges that await and the prospects that this programme will offer you. The aim is to demonstrate your commitment as a student, both academically and personally, while remaining humble.
Once the text has been drafted, have several people read it over to make sure that the message is properly conveyed. And above all, avoid spelling mistakes! It may seem obvious, but speling misstackes can spoil all the effort you’ve put into the content, because they will stand out above all.
Has your stress level gone up a notch after reading this article? Don’t worry! At EDUCOM we have over 10 years’ expertise in university coaching, to help you write a hard-hitting Personal Statement that will highlight your strengths and increase your chances of getting into the university of your dreams.