How to Write a Strong Personal Statement

January 9, 2018

The personal statement is one of the most important documents that you must submit when you apply for your graduate studies. It could be the only deciding factor that stands between you and another candidate regardless of your grades. Your aim is to make the university want you. But, how to write a strong personal statement?

Personal StatementUniversities receive thousands of personal statements not only yours, so make sure it is polished, interesting, and standout from the crowd.

It’s very important to know exactly what you should include in your personal statement. Invest some time reading about it because it’s not a normal letter that you can draft in minutes and say that’s it, it’s ready. NO NO NO.

 

Some universities will tell you on their website what they want to see in your personal letter, so always check the university website for details and include every information they ask for in your letter.

If for example they say they only want a one page with certain number of words, then it’s a one page with the number of words they specified. This will give them the impression that you pay attention to details and you follow instructions.

If they ask to mention the name of the professor you contacted in your letter, then contact a professor first and get his approval to supervise your research before mentioning his name in your letter.

I list below few important tips that you need to know on how to write a strong personal statement:

  • Your personal statement should be tailored to suit each professor. You can’t use one standard letter when you contact different professors but you have to show everybody what makes you unique.
  • The introduction of your personal statement has to be strong and interesting. Your first paragraph has to impress the reader because you really want them to continue reading to the end and not trash it.
  • Your personal statement has to be focused on the subject you want study. Why do you want to pursue this particular subject? How did your interest in it evolve? What research have you done? What kind of research area are you interested in? How much knowledge do you have in this area? What relevant courses did you study in your previous degree?
  • Prove that you are the best candidate for the course. Fulfilling all the requirements of the university is good but not enough. You need to be able to promote yourself beyond just fulfilling the requirements of the graduate department. What have you achieved in this subject so far? Do you have evidences of your achievements? Are you a member of any professional association?
  • Extra curriculum activities are important. Your work experience in related fields, your internship, your volunteerism, certificates you earned, articles you wrote and published…are few examples that will make your personal statement standout.
  • Mention your plan after earning your Master degree or PhD. Would you want to pursue your doctorate after that or would you want to use your earned knowledge to teach aspiring university students in the same field or would you want to become a researcher?
  • Be yourself and write your own words. It’s OK to get some ideas from published personal letters but admissions will know if this is your own writing or not because they read tens of letters daily. Honesty is very much appreciated. Be truthful, positive and proud of your achievements.
  • Check your grammar and spelling.

What you should avoid in your personal statement:

  • Plagiarism: Never ever copy anybody’s letter. Admissions will know. You won’t only lose your opportunity, it’s also illegal.
  • Don’t lie, don’t exaggerate, don’t mention something irrelevant, don’t be negative, don’t repeat yourself, don’t be arrogant, and don’t be funny.
  • I personally read tens of personal statements and edited some of them. The thing that I found in almost all of them are words like “I’m passionate about”, “I’m fascinated about”, “since I was a young boy”, “It was always my dream”, “I want to make a difference”, “Socrates said”, “Paulo Coelho said”…etc. Avoid Avoid Avoid. Very boring and a waste of space. Focus on YOU and your achievements.

 

If you have any feedback or comment, I would love to hear from you.

6 Comments

  • Reply Kevin December 18, 2015 at 05:36

    Your website looks great! I like your use of headings and the content flows nicely. I’m currently working on my MBA and I found your tips helpful and very accurate. How did you post the image at the top of your page? That is a great way to capture readers’ attention.

    • Reply Mona December 18, 2015 at 05:47

      Hi Kevin. Thank you for you comment. I’m glad you found my blog useful. There are plenty of websites with images and there are free ones as well but you have to publish an acknowledgement to the owner of the image and you can see it if you hold the mouse over the image. Wish you all the success with your MBA 🙂

  • Reply Stu December 18, 2015 at 06:14

    Wow! Strong website here..

    I have never written a personal statement but I have written a ton of artists statements and “objective” type blurbs in the past. I can imagine they would be similar to this in some ways.

    Did you design that logo? Looks great!

    Keep up the great work…

    -Stu

    • Reply Mona December 18, 2015 at 15:26

      Thank you Stu 🙂 Haven’t read artists statements before so I don’t know. I wish I could design my logo myself I would have done it way better but I used the service of a seller on fiverr.

  • Reply Mijareze February 1, 2016 at 17:28

    Hi There,
    I like your recommendation for writing a strong personal statement. However, I would go through it and check your document one more time. I noticed the need for commas in some places. For example, you wrote, “Note as well that universities receive thousands of personal statements not only yours…” You need a comma after “statements.” Commas are used when writing a list or when information that is different is coming. I also noticed, near the bottom of your paper, that you placed commas outside of quotation marks in a list. The commas should be used inside of quotes. I hope this information is helpful to you!
    Thank you,
    Edward Mijarez

    • Reply Mona February 9, 2016 at 04:26

      Thank you Edward for your feedback :

    Leave a Reply