A Personal Statement, also known as an admissions essay or application essay, is a brief summary of an individual’s perspective on a given essay topic. When applying for undergraduate or postgraduate degree such as a Bachelors degree, an MBA or an Online Masters Degree, a personal statement plays an important part in the admissions process. It is the best way to communicate who you are, what you can bring to an institution and why you’ve chosen to pursue this particular educational pathway to the admissions office or degree programme leader. A personal statement can help set an applicant apart from the competition, and for graduate students that may not have a bachelors degree, help support their entry into an MBA or Masters Degree by advocating on the basis of their work experience.
This article provides 6 tips to help you write a Personal Statement when applying to a University. These tips are helpful for anyone needing to craft a Personal Statement, be it for a resume, an undergraduate degree or postgraduate degree such as a PGCE, MBA or Masters.
Personal Statement Tip #1: First impressions matter. The most challenging aspect of a writing a Personal Statement is the first sentence. In a University admissions essay, the first sentence is your first impression, so it is crucial to make it interesting, bold and personal. Avoid ‘I want to do an MBA because’, and instead try to think of how you can summarise your entire essay into a single, introductory sentence that entices the admissions officer to keep reading. Above all, do not start your first sentence with the letter “I“. This will force you to think creatively on how to phrase and communicate the all important first sentence.
Personal Statement Tip #2: Infuse in your personality. The University admissions essay is the first point of introduction to the University you are applying to. The University will use the essay to assess an applicant’s personality, trying to gauge not only who they are as a person but also their intellectual strengths, their values, perspectives and way of thinking. Infusing your personality into the essay or statement, can help ‘materialise’ you in the admissions officer’s mind, making them see you as a person first, instead of a few dry words attached to a name. For example, instead of saying ‘I have 5 years of work experience in the field of Marketing‘, try ‘In my early teens I saw an ad for an Ice Cream and it evoked a deep sense of nostalgia in me. It was then that I fell in love with advertising, and have been successfully pursing a career in this field for the last 5 years.’
Personal Statement Tip #3: Have a clear narrative. Convey in clear terms, how you are the best candidate for the chosen degree programme and why you choose it. Admission officers want to know that their University wasn’t selected arbitrarily, but that candidates have done their due diligence before making a choice. Write about why you are interested in this field of study, and what about this particular degree programme interests you. It’s also important to explain how your personal experiences and background can add to the programme so it isn’t just about what the programme can do for you, but also how your inclusion will add value to your class of peers.
Personal Statement Tip #4: Use specific, relevant examples. Pinpoint experiences that make you who you are, reflect your values as it relates to life or your chosen field, or scholarly work you have done in the past that influenced your career path. Use examples from your life and work to help support your essay and arguments. This has the added benefit of personalising your admissions essay even further. Remember however, to only use relevant examples and not every anecdote that comes to your mind. A University does not care if you once wanted to be an astronaut when you were 5.
Personal Statement Tip #5: Draw a line and do NOT cross it. In other words, do not over share. Things like intimate relationships, illegal activities or bodily contacts, have no place in a personal statement. While it’s important to be honest and have your personality seep out through the writing, be careful to strike a medium between personal and professional. Universities want applicants that display a level of professionalism, as every alumni is a reflection of the University brand.
Personal Statement Tip #6: Write first, edit later. The word count or word limit can often be a significant hindrance in writing an admissions essay, as people become fixated on adhering to the word count. For this reason, it is better to write out the essay in its entirety and then edit it down. The added advantage this provides is allowing an application to read over what they’ve written more thoroughly, and remove sections or parts that doesn’t adequately communicate who they are or what the want to say.
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