Writing an academic personal statement

When you apply for an academic course of study, you may be required to write a personal statement. Personal statements provide a way for an admissions representative to get to know you and learn about your background, interests, and goals.

Writing a personal statement gives you a chance to show those at your chosen academic institution what you’re all about. Use the statement as an opportunity to show the admissions department that you would be a good fit for the program. The admissions processes for some programs may require that you write a general statement about yourself, and others may require that you answer specific questions.

Explain your academic credentials

If you’re asked to write a general statement, focus on explaining your previous academic credentials and accomplishments, discussing any professional qualifications, describing your research interests and telling your reader why you want to enroll in that specific program. However, while it’s important to give the reader insight into yourself, you don’t want your statement to be a simple list of your grades, the courses you’ve taken, and the jobs you’ve held.

Describe and relate unique personal experiences

You can use a variety of approaches to stand out to the reader, such as describing any unique personal experiences you have had that relate to your chosen field of study or recounting your greatest academic accomplishment and what it meant to you. Then, relate those experiences to your interest in that specific program and discuss how your previous experience would make you successful in the program.

When you’re determining what type of experiences or accomplishments to include, make sure the information you provide relates to the program you’re applying for. For example, discussing your love of traveling is only applicable if factors like traveling experience or cultural diversity directly relate to your chosen program of study.

Answer any specific questions

If you have been asked to answer specific questions, make sure you answer the questions completely (while staying within the required word count!). Don’t provide an answer that only partially relates to the question. Depending on what type of question you must answer, you can find ways to put your own personal spin on your answer.

Referring to knowledge you have gained in your academic or professional career to answer questions that relate to specific facets of the field is a great way to make yourself memorable to readers.

Remember these general guidelines

No matter which of these formats you must follow, it’s important to keep some general guidelines in mind:

  1. Make sure you research the program and the school. For example, you might find some interesting information that relates to your experience or you might think of a great way to tie the school’s mission or values into your statement.
  2. If you are applying for a graduate or post-graduate program, information on your high school accomplishments is generally not relevant. Only include your high school experiences if you are applying for an undergraduate program.
  3. Remember that the first paragraph gives your reader the first impression of you. Provide a hook or find a way to engage your reader from the very beginning; you don’t want him or her to be bored right off the bat.
  4. While you want to display your unique qualities and skills, don’t go too far in trying to make yourself stand out. It’s generally best to avoid including humor or making outrageous, controversial statements. You want to show that you’re unique, but you don’t want to appear as though you’re not taking the process seriously.
  5. Use formal, academic language. You want your statement to convey your knowledge and your ability to write well. Remember that you’re writing an academic document, not a blog post.
  6. Edit your work before you submit it! You can use your word-processing software’s spell check to catch grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, but remember that spell check doesn’t catch everything. It’s often a good idea to have someone else look over your work to make sure you haven’t missed any mistakes.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can write a personal statement that will help bolster your application materials and help you obtain admission to the program of your choice.