Quintessential Guide


How to write your personal statement

Writing the personal statement can be one of the most challenging tasks among those required for university admission. This task requires you to reflect upon your life and determine the experiences leading to your desire for study in your chosen field.

STEP 1: Think about what makes you stand out, research on the university and your course of interest

⎫ What is special, unique, distinctive or impressive about you or your life?

⎫ When did you originally become interested in this field of study? Why does this subject interest you? Include evidence that you understand what is required to study the course. How does this particular university fit in that picture? What do you know about the course at that university?

⎫ Why do you think you’re suitable for the course(s)? Do you have any particular skills and experience that will help you to succeed on the course? Have you taken part in any other activities that demonstrate your interest in the course? Universities like to know the skills you have that will help you on the course, or generally with life at university, such as any accredited or non-accredited achievement. Make a list of your hobbies, interests and social activities. Then think about how they demonstrate your personality, skills and abilities. Try to link them to the skills and experience required for your course. Include details of jobs, placements, work experience or voluntary work, particularly if it’s relevant to your chosen course. Try to link any experience to skills or qualities related to the course.

⎫ What are your career goals? If you know what you’d like to achieve after completing the course, explain how you want to use the knowledge and experience that you gain. You might say something to suggest to the committee that you have a realistic perception of what this field or profession entails.”

⎫ Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record you should explain?

⎫ Have you overcome any unusual obstacles?

⎫ What are the most compelling reasons you can give to the admissions committee?

⎫ Research the school, the program, the faculty, and possible areas of focus within the graduate field of study and/or associated career field.

⎫ Have a very clear understanding of why you want to go to the school, and why each school or faculty is a good fit with your background and interests.

⎫ Think about what makes you unique. An experience or person in your life may have molded you or contributed to your desire to attend graduate school. Do you have a hobby or artistic ability about which you are passionate?

⎫ Determine how you can express what distinguishes you from other applicants and how your goals or research interests match the program and its faculty.

STEP 2: Brainstorm on the angle of the personal statement

Do you notice a repeated positive theme in your answers?


If not, you might ask a trustworthy reader to peruse your answers and offer thematic suggestions of possible interests. Keep in mind that the format for your personal statement will likely be that of a story and you will not only want to catch but also maintain reader interest.

Engage them from the first sentence. Out of thousands of essays, why should yours stand out? A perfect introduction will leap out to the reader and grab their attention.

The best way to do this is through as much detail as you can muster. If you have chosen a sport or activity you excel in, show your reader through your words a split second of what participating in the activity is like. Write as if you are telling a story: what was the setting? What was the weather like? Were there other people there? What emotions were coursing through you at that exact moment?

Many students will begin their essays, “The most life-changing/important/difficult moment in my life has been___.” Over time, admissions officers will lose steam over the constant repetition, and all essays that begin as such will fail to make an impact.

Make it easier for your reader to remember you by writing a story as your introduction. The more specific detail you add in, the more the reader will get into the story and the more sold they’ll be on you.

Also try to include characteristics good schools are looking for. In general good schools value:

⎫ Community involvement/passion development over pure academic success.

⎫ Curiosity-whether that curiosity is academic, intellectual, extracurricular, or philosophical. Excellent students, for the most part, are really passionate about something; you want to convey how you will also contribute to that pool in an outstanding university.

⎫ A sense of citizenship or regard for humanity in the essay – excellent students for most part are genuinely good people who want to give back to society

Style and Approach

The perfect style and approach to writing a personal statement is the one that best fits who you are as an individual. Beyond that, the style should be clear, well-organized, and specific with special attention given to transitions that facilitate the flow of the document

STEP 3: Double Checking the grammar and flow of language
Be careful against entering the Essay Hall of Shame: Errors and sloppiness, misspellings. Spelling errors, poor English. Avoid:
⎫ Anything that starts out, “I’ve always wanted to be a ___________.”

⎫ We ask for dates on activities. It’s a red flag if all the activities are brand new.

⎫ A whole essay on deep personal problems or excuses for past performance. It’s amazing how common that is. The essay should be upbeat, convincing and persuasive.

⎫ Essays that are too long. It shows no discipline.

Don’t tell me what ___________is. I know what my own discipline is! What can they be thinking? Tell me what____________means to you.
The admissions committee must get a good sense of “who you are, what makes you tick, and how different you are from other applicants..
Avoid the inclusion of the references of potentially controversial subjects. The most important concern is that you are honest. If the university asked a question in their requirements of the personal statement, be sure you answer that question within the word limits.

Step 4: Self Criticism and Retrospection, Feedback from Others

Ask others to read and answer the following questions.
1. Did my opening paragraph capture your attention?

2. Did you find the statement as a whole to be interesting?

3. Did you find it to be well written?

4. Did it seem positive, upbeat?

5. Did it sound like me?

6. Do you regard it as an honest and forthright presentation of who I am?
7. Did it seem to answer the question(s)?

8. Can you think of anything relevant that I might have inadvertently omitted?

9. Is there material within the statement that seems inappropriate?

10. Did you gain any insight about me from reading this?

11. Did you notice any typos or other errors?

12. Do you think the statement has in any way distinguished me from other applications?

13. Do you think my application to __________ is logical?

Step 5: Finalising the Personal statement.

After rounds of Criticism and revision, you can finalise and submit your essays. Be sure that you have met the timeline, answered the questions and the essay in check with the word limit.

Personal Statement Checklist

  • Does it have good central themes?
  • Is there a compelling reason to admit this candidate?
  • Does it give insight to the personality and character of this candidate?
  • Is this personal statement about him/her or some famous person?