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College Admissions , College Essays

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In addition to standardized test scores and transcripts, a personal statement or essay is a required part of many college applications. The personal statement can be one of the most stressful parts of the application process because it's the most open ended.

In this guide, I'll answer the question, "What is a personal statement?" I'll talk through common college essay topics and what makes for an effective personal statement.

College Essay Glossary

Even the terminology can be confusing if you aren't familiar with it, so let's start by defining some terms:

Personal statement —an essay you write to show a college admissions committee who you are and why you deserve to be admitted to their school. It's worth noting that, unlike "college essay," this term is used for application essays for graduate school as well.

College essay —basically the same as a personal statement (I'll be using the terms interchangeably).

Essay prompt —a question or statement that your college essay is meant to respond to.

Supplemental essay —an extra school or program-specific essay beyond the basic personal statement.

Many colleges ask for only one essay. However, some schools do ask you to respond to multiple prompts or to provide supplemental essays in addition to a primary personal statement.

Either way, don't let it stress you out! This guide will cover everything you need to know about the different types of college essays and get you started thinking about how to write a great one:

  • Why colleges ask for an essay
  • What kinds of essay questions you'll see
  • What sets great essays apart
  • Tips for writing your own essay

Why Do Colleges Ask For an Essay?

There are a couple of reasons that colleges ask applicants to submit an essay, but the basic idea is that it gives them more information about you, especially who you are beyond grades and test scores.

#1: Insight Into Your Personality

The most important role of the essay is to give admissions committees a sense of your personality and what kind of addition you'd be to their school's community . Are you inquisitive? Ambitious? Caring? These kinds of qualities will have a profound impact on your college experience, but they're hard to determine based on a high school transcript.

Basically, the essay contextualizes your application and shows what kind of person you are outside of your grades and test scores . Imagine two students, Jane and Tim: they both have 3.5 GPAs and 1200s on the SAT. Jane lives in Colorado and is the captain of her track team; Tim lives in Vermont and regularly contributes to the school paper. They both want to be doctors, and they both volunteer at the local hospital.

As similar as Jane and Tim seem on paper, in reality, they're actually quite different, and their unique perspectives come through in their essays. Jane writes about how looking into her family history for a school project made her realize how the discovery of modern medical treatments like antibiotics and vaccines had changed the world and drove her to pursue a career as a medical researcher. Tim, meanwhile, recounts a story about how a kind doctor helped him overcome his fear of needles, an interaction that reminded him of the value of empathy and inspired him to become a family practitioner. These two students may seem outwardly similar but their motivations and personalities are very different.

Without an essay, your application is essentially a series of numbers: a GPA, SAT scores, the number of hours spent preparing for quiz bowl competitions. The personal statement is your chance to stand out as an individual.

#2: Evidence of Writing Skills

A secondary purpose of the essay is to serve as a writing sample and help colleges see that you have the skills needed to succeed in college classes. The personal statement is your best chance to show off your writing , so take the time to craft a piece you're really proud of.

That said, don't panic if you aren't a strong writer. Admissions officers aren't expecting you to write like Joan Didion; they just want to see that you can express your ideas clearly.

No matter what, your essay should absolutely not include any errors or typos .

#3: Explanation of Extenuating Circumstances

For some students, the essay is also a chance to explain factors affecting their high school record. Did your grades drop sophomore year because you were dealing with a family emergency? Did you miss out on extracurriculars junior year because of an extended medical absence? Colleges want to know if you struggled with a serious issue that affected your high school record , so make sure to indicate any relevant circumstances on your application.

Keep in mind that in some cases there will be a separate section for you to address these types of issues, as well as any black marks on your record like expulsions or criminal charges.

#4: Your Reasons for Applying to the School

Many colleges ask you to write an essay or paragraph about why you're applying to their school specifically . In asking these questions, admissions officers are trying to determine if you're genuinely excited about the school and whether you're likely to attend if accepted .

I'll talk more about this type of essay below.

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What Kind of Questions Do Colleges Ask?

Thankfully, applications don't simply say, "Please include an essay about yourself"; they include a question or prompt that you're asked to respond to . These prompts are generally pretty open-ended and can be approached in a lot of different ways .

Nonetheless, most questions fall into a few main categories. Let's go through each common type of prompt, with examples from the Common Application, the University of California application, and a few individual schools.

Prompt Type 1: Your Personal History

This sort of question asks you to write about a formative experience, important event, or key relationship from your life . Admissions officers want to understand what is important to you and how your background has shaped you as a person.

These questions are both common and tricky. The most common pit students fall into is trying to tell their entire life stories. It's better to focus in on a very specific point in time and explain why it was meaningful to you.

Common App 1

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Common App 5

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

University of California 2

Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.

University of California 6

Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

Prompt Type 2: Facing a Problem

A lot of prompts deal with how you solve problems, how you cope with failure, and how you respond to conflict. College can be difficult, both personally and academically, and admissions committees want to see that you're equipped to face those challenges .

The key to these types of questions is to identify a real problem, failure, or conflict ( not a success in disguise) and show how you adapted and grew from addressing the issue.

Common App 2

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Harvard University 7

The Harvard College Honor Code declares that we “hold honesty as the foundation of our community.” As you consider entering this community that is committed to honesty, please reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty.

Prompt Type 3: Diversity

Most colleges are pretty diverse, with students from a wide range of backgrounds. Essay questions about diversity are designed to help admissions committees understand how you interact with people who are different from you .

In addressing these prompts, you want to show that you're capable of engaging with new ideas and relating to people who may have different beliefs than you.

Common App 3

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Johns Hopkins University

Tell us about an aspect of your identity (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, religion, community) or a life experience that has shaped you as an individual and how that influenced what you’d like to pursue in college at Hopkins.  This can be a future goal or experience that is either [sic] academic, extracurricular, or social.

Duke University Optional 1

We believe a wide range of personal perspectives, beliefs, and lived experiences are essential to making Duke a vibrant and meaningful living and learning community. Feel free to share with us anything in this context that might help us better understand you and what you might bring to our community. 

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Prompt Type 4: Your Future Goals

This type of prompt asks about what you want to do in the future: sometimes simply what you'd like to study, sometimes longer-term career goals. Colleges want to understand what you're interested in and how you plan to work towards your goals.

You'll mostly see these prompts if you're applying for a specialized program (like pre-med or engineering) or applying as a transfer student. Some schools also ask for supplementary essays along these lines. 

University of Southern California (Architecture)

Princeton Supplement 1

Prompt Type 5: Why This School

The most common style of supplemental essay is the "why us?" essay, although a few schools with their own application use this type of question as their main prompt. In these essays, you're meant to address the specific reasons you want to go to the school you're applying to .

Whatever you do, don't ever recycle these essays for more than one school.

Chapman University

There are thousands of universities and colleges. Why are you interested in attending Chapman?

Columbia University

Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia.

Rice University

Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you?

Princeton University

Princeton has a longstanding commitment to understanding our responsibility to society through service and civic engagement. How does your own story intersect with these ideals?

Prompt Type 6: Creative Prompts

More selective schools often have supplemental essays with stranger or more unique questions. University of Chicago is notorious for its weird prompts, but it's not the only school that will ask you to think outside the box in addressing its questions.

University of Chicago

“Vlog,” “Labradoodle,” and “Fauxmage.” Language is filled with portmanteaus. Create a new portmanteau and explain why those two things are a “patch” (perfect match).

University of Vermont

Established in Burlington, VT, Ben & Jerry’s is synonymous with both ice cream and social change. The “Save Our Swirled” flavor raises awareness of climate change, and “I Dough, I Dough” celebrates marriage equality. If you worked alongside Ben & Jerry, what charitable flavor would you develop and why?

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What Makes a Strong Personal Statement?

OK , so you're clear on what a college essay is, but you're still not sure how to write a good one . To help you get started, I'm going to explain the main things admissions officers look for in students' essays: an engaging perspective, genuine moments, and lively writing .

I've touched on these ideas already, but here, I'll go into more depth about how the best essays stand out from the pack.

Showing Who You Are

A lot of students panic about finding a unique topic, and certainly writing about something unusual like a successful dating app you developed with your friends or your time working as a mall Santa can't hurt you. But what's really important isn't so much what you write about as how you write about it . You need to use your subject to show something deeper about yourself.

Look at the prompts above: you'll notice that they almost all ask you what you learned or how the experience affected you. Whatever topic you pick, you must be able to specifically address how or why it matters to you .

Say a student, Will, was writing about the mall Santa in response to Common App prompt number 2 (the one about failure): Will was a terrible mall Santa. He was way too skinny to be convincing and the kids would always step on his feet. He could easily write 600 very entertaining words describing this experience, but they wouldn't necessarily add up to an effective college essay.

To do that, he'll need to talk about his motivations and his feelings: why he took such a job in the first place and what he did (and didn't) get out of it. Maybe Will took the job because he needed to make some money to go on a school trip and it was the only one he could find. Despite his lack of enthusiasm for screaming children, he kept doing it because he knew if he persevered through the whole holiday season he would have enough money for his trip. Would you rather read "I failed at being a mall Santa" or "Failing as a mall Santa taught me how to persevere no matter what"? Admissions officers definitely prefer the latter.

Ultimately, the best topics are ones that allow you to explain something surprising about yourself .

Since the main point of the essay is to give schools a sense of who you are, you have to open up enough to let them see your personality . Writing a good college essay means being honest about your feelings and experiences even when they aren't entirely positive.

In this context, honesty doesn't mean going on at length about the time you broke into the local pool at night and nearly got arrested, but it does mean acknowledging when something was difficult or upsetting for you. Think about the mall Santa example above. The essay won't work unless the writer genuinely acknowledges that he was a bad Santa and explains why.

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Eloquent Writing

As I mentioned above, colleges want to know that you are a strong enough writer to survive in college classes . Can you express your ideas clearly and concisely? Can you employ specific details appropriately and avoid clichés and generalizations? These kinds of skills will serve you well in college (and in life!).

Nonetheless, admissions officers recognize that different students have different strengths. They aren't looking for a poetic magnum opus from someone who wants to be a math major. (Honestly, they aren't expecting a masterwork from anyone , but the basic point stands.) Focus on making sure that your thoughts and personality come through, and don't worry about using fancy vocabulary or complex rhetorical devices.

Above all, make sure that you have zero grammar or spelling errors . Typos indicate carelessness, which will hurt your cause with admissions officers.

Top Five Essay-Writing Tips

Now that you have a sense of what colleges are looking for, let's talk about how you can put this new knowledge into practice as you approach your own essay. Below, I've collected my five best tips from years as a college essay counselor.

#1: Start Early!

No matter how much you want to avoid writing your essay, don't leave it until the last minute . One of the most important parts of the essay writing process is editing, and editing takes a lot of time. You want to be able to put your draft in a drawer for a week and come back to it with fresh eyes. You don't want to be stuck with an essay you don't really like because you have to submit your application tomorrow.

You need plenty of time to experiment and rewrite, so I would recommend starting your essays at least two months before the application deadline . For most students, that means starting around Halloween, but if you're applying early, you'll need to get going closer to Labor Day.

Of course, it's even better to get a head start and begin your planning earlier. Many students like to work on their essays over the summer, when they have more free time, but you should keep in mind that each year's application isn't usually released until August or September. Essay questions often stay the same from year to year, however. If you are looking to get a jump on writing, you can try to confirm with the school (or the Common App) whether the essay questions will be the same as the previous year's.

#2: Pick a Topic You're Genuinely Excited About

One of the biggest mistakes students make is trying to write what they think the committee wants to hear. The truth is that there's no "right answer" when it comes to college essays . T he best topics aren't limited to specific categories like volunteer experiences or winning a tournament. Instead, they're topics that actually matter to the writer .

"OK," you're thinking, "but what does she mean by 'a topic that matters to you'? Because to be perfectly honest, right now, what really matters to me is that fall TV starts up this week, and I have a feeling I shouldn't write about that."

You're not wrong (although some great essays have been written about television ). A great topic isn't just something that you're excited about or that you talk to your friends about; it's something that has had a real, describable effect on your perspective .

This doesn't mean that you should overemphasize how something absolutely changed your life , especially if it really didn't. Instead, try to be as specific and honest as you can about how the experience affected you, what it taught you, or what you got out of it.

Let's go back to the TV idea. Sure, writing an essay about how excited you are for the new season of Stranger Things  probably isn't the quickest way to get yourself into college, but you could write a solid essay (in response to the first type of prompt) about how SpongeBob SquarePants was an integral part of your childhood. However, it's not enough to just explain how much you loved SpongeBob—you must also explain why and how watching the show every day after school affected your life. For example, maybe it was a ritual you shared with your brother, which showed you how even seemingly silly pieces of pop culture can bring people together. Dig beneath the surface to show who you are and how you see the world.

When you write about something you don't really care about, your writing will come out clichéd and uninteresting, and you'll likely struggle to motivate yourself. When you instead write about something that is genuinely important to you, you can make even the most ordinary experiences—learning to swim, eating a meal, or watching TV—engaging .

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#3: Focus on Specifics

But how do you write an interesting essay? Focus.

Don't try to tell your entire life story or even the story of an entire weekend; 500–650 words may seem like a lot, but you'll reach that limit quickly if you try to pack every single thing that has happened to you into your essay. If, however, you just touch on a wide range of topics, you'll end up with an essay that reads more like a résumé.

Instead, narrow in on one specific event or idea, and talk about it in more depth . The narrower your topic, the better. For example, writing about your role as Mercutio in your school's production of Romeo and Juliet is too general, but writing about opening night, when everything went wrong, could be a great topic.

Whatever your topic, use details to help draw the reader in and express your unique perspective. But keep in mind that you don't have to include every detail of what you did or thought; stick to the important and illustrative ones.

#4: Use Your Own Voice

College essays aren't academic assignments; you don't need to be super formal. Instead, try to be yourself. The best writing sounds like a more eloquent version of the way you talk .

Focus on using clear, simple language that effectively explains a point or evokes a feeling. To do so, avoid the urge to use fancy-sounding synonyms when you don't really know what they mean. Contractions are fine; slang, generally, is not. Don't hesitate to write in the first person.

A final note: you don't need to be relentlessly positive. It's OK to acknowledge that sometimes things don't go how you want—just show how you grew from that.

#5: Be Ruthless

Many students want to call it a day after writing a first draft, but editing is a key part of writing a truly great essay. To be clear, editing doesn't mean just making a few minor wording tweaks and cleaning up typos; it means reading your essay carefully and objectively and thinking about how you could improve it .

Ask yourself questions as you read: is the progression of the essay clear? Do you make a lot of vague, sweeping statements that could be replaced with more interesting specifics? Do your sentences flow together nicely? Do you show something about yourself beyond the surface level?

You will have to delete and rewrite (potentially large) parts of your essay, and no matter how attached you feel to something you wrote, you might have to let it go . If you've ever heard the phrase "kill your darlings," know that it is 100% applicable to college essay writing.

At some point, you might even need to rewrite the whole essay. Even though it's annoying, starting over is sometimes the best way to get an essay that you're really proud of.

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What's Next?

Make sure to check out our other posts on college essays , including our step-by-step guide to how to write your college essay , our analysis of the Common App Prompts , and our collection of example essays .

If you're in need of guidance on other parts of the application process , take a look at our guides to choosing the right college for you , writing about extracurriculars , deciding to double major , and requesting teacher recommendations .

Last but not least, if you're planning on taking the SAT one last time , check out our ultimate guide to studying for the SAT and make sure you're as prepared as possible.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.

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How to Write an Amazing Personal Statement (Includes Examples!)

what is personal statement for university application

Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine. Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology.

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Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

what is personal statement for university application

Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

what is personal statement for university application

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

How to Write an Amazing Personal Statement (Includes Examples!)

The personal statement. It’s one of the most important parts of the entire college application process. This essay is the perfect opportunity to show admissions officers who you are and what makes you stand out from the crowd. But writing a good personal statement isn’t exactly easy. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate guide on how to nail your personal statement, complete with example essays . Each essay was reviewed and commented upon by admissions expert Bill Jack. Let’s dive in!

Related: How to write an essay about yourself  

What is a personal statement? 

A personal statement is a special type of essay that’s required when you’re applying to colleges and scholarship programs. In this essay, you’re expected to share something about who you are and what you bring to the table. Think of it as a chance to reveal a side of yourself not found in the rest of your application. Personal statements are typically around 400 – 600 words in length. 

What can I write about? 

Pretty much anything, as long as it’s about you . While this is liberating in the sense that your writing options are nearly unlimited, it’s also overwhelming for the same reason. The good news is that you’ll probably be responding to a specific prompt. Chances are you’re applying to a school that uses the Common App , which means you’ll have seven prompts to choose from . Reviewing these prompts can help generate some ideas, but so can asking yourself meaningful questions. 

Below you’ll find a list of questions to ask yourself during the brainstorming process. For each of the following questions, spend a few minutes jotting down whatever comes to mind. 

  • What experiences have shaped who you are? 
  • What’s special or unique about you or your life story? 
  • Who or what has inspired you the most? 
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of? 
  • What are your goals for the future? How have you arrived at those goals? 
  • If your life was a movie, what would be the most interesting scene? 
  • What have been some of the biggest challenges in your life? How did you respond and what did you learn? 

The purpose of these questions is to prompt you to think about your life at a deeper level. Hopefully by reflecting on them, you’ll find an essay topic that is impactful and meaningful. In the next section, we’ll offer some advice on actually writing your essay. 

Also see:  How to write a 500 word essay

How do I write my personal statement? 

Once you’ve found a topic, it’s time to start writing! Every personal statement is different, so there’s not really one formula that works for every student. That being said, the following tips should get you started in the right direction:  

1. Freewrite, then rewrite 

The blank page tends to get more intimidating the longer you stare at it, so it’s best to go ahead and jump right in! Don’t worry about making the first draft absolutely perfect. Instead, just get your ideas on the page and don’t spend too much time thinking about the finer details. Think of this initial writing session as a “brain dump”. Take 15-30 minutes to quickly empty all your thoughts onto the page without worrying about things like grammar, spelling, or sentence structure. You can even use bullet points if that helps. Once you have your ideas on the page, then you can go back and shape them exactly how you want. 

2. Establish your theme 

Now that you’ve got some basic ideas down on the page, it’s time to lock in on a theme. Your theme is a specific angle that reflects the central message of your essay. It can be summarized in a sentence or even a word. For example, let’s say you’re writing about how you had to establish a whole new group of friends when you moved to a new city. The theme for this type of essay would probably be something like “adaptation”. Having a theme will help you stay focused throughout your essay. Since you only have a limited number of words, you can’t afford to go off on tangents that don’t relate to your theme. 

3. Tell a story

A lot of great essays rely on a specific scene or story. Find the personal anecdote relevant to your theme and transfer it to the page. The best way to do this is by using descriptive language. Consult the five senses as you’re setting the scene. What did you see, hear, taste, touch, or smell? How were you feeling emotionally? Using descriptive language can really help your essay come to life. According to UPchieve , a nonprofit that supports low income students, focusing on a particular moment as a “ revised version of a memoir ” is one way to keep readers engaged. 

Related: College essay primer: show, don’t tell  

4. Focus on your opening paragraph

Your opening paragraph should grab your reader’s attention and set the tone for the rest of your essay. In most cases, this is the best place to include your anecdote (if you have one). By leading with your personal story, you can hook your audience from the get-go. After telling your story, you can explain why it’s important to who you are. 

Related:  How to start a scholarship essay (with examples)

5. Use an authentic voice 

Your personal statement reflects who you are, so you should use a tone that represents you. That means you shouldn’t try to sound like someone else, and you shouldn’t use fancy words just to show off. This isn’t an academic paper, so you don’t have to adopt a super formal tone. Instead, write in a way that allows room for your personality to breathe. 

6. Edit, edit, edit…

Once you’re done writing, give yourself some time away from the essay. Try to allow a few days to pass before looking at the essay again with fresh eyes. This way, you’re more likely to pick up on spelling and grammatical errors. You may even get some new ideas and rethink the way you wrote some things. Once you’re satisfied, let someone else edit your essay. We recommend asking a teacher, parent, or sibling for their thoughts before submitting. 

Examples of personal statements 

Sometimes viewing someone else’s work is the best way to generate inspiration and get the creative juices flowing. The following essays are written in response to four different Common App prompts: 

Prompt 1: “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”

When I was eight years old, I wanted a GameCube very badly. For weeks I hounded my dad to buy me one and finally he agreed. But there was a catch. He’d only get me a GameCube if I promised to start reading. Every day I played video games, I would have to pick up a book and read for at least one hour. At that point in my life, reading was just something I had to suffer through for school assignments. To read for pleasure seemed ludicrous. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this proposed agreement. But I figured anything was worth it to get my hands on that shiny new video game console, so I bit the bullet and shook my dad’s hand. Little did I know that I had just made a life-changing deal. 

At first, the required hour of reading was a chore — something I had to do so I could play Mario Kart. But it quickly turned into something more than that. To my complete and utter surprise, I discovered that I actually enjoyed reading. One hour turned into two, two turned into three, and after a while I was spending more time reading than I was playing video games. I found myself captivated by the written word, and I read everything I could get my hands on. Lord of the Rings , Percy Jackson , Goosebumps — you name it. I was falling in love with literature, while my GameCube was accumulating dust in the TV stand. 

Soon enough, reading led to writing. I was beginning to come up with my own stories, so I put pen to paper and let my imagination run wild. It started out small. My first effort was a rudimentary picture book about a friendly raccoon who went to the moon. But things progressed. My stories became more intricate, my characters more complex. I wrote a series of science fiction novellas. I tried my hand at poetry. I was amazed at the worlds I could create with the tip of my pen. I had dreams of becoming an author. 

Then somewhere along the way my family got a subscription to Netflix, and that completely changed the way I thought about storytelling. My nose had been buried in books up until then, so I hadn’t really seen a lot of movies. That quickly changed. It seemed like every other day a pair of new DVDs would arrive in the mail (this was the early days of Netflix). Dark Knight, The Truman Show, Inception, Memento — all these great films were coming in and out of the house. And I couldn’t get enough of them. Movies brought stories to life in a way that books could not. I was head over heels for visual storytelling. 

Suddenly I wasn’t writing novels and short stories anymore. I was writing scripts for movies. Now I wanted to transfer my ideas to the big screen, rather than the pages of a book. But I was still doing the same thing I had always done. I was writing, just in a different format. To help with this process, I read the screenplays of my favorite films and paid attention to the way they were crafted. I kept watching more and more movies. And I hadn’t forgotten about my first love, either. I still cherished books and looked to them for inspiration. By the end of my junior year of high school, I had completed two scripts for short films. 

So why am I telling you all this? Because I want to turn my love of storytelling into a career. I’m not totally sure how to do that yet, but I know I have options. Whether it’s film production, creative writing, or even journalism, I want to find a major that suits my ambitions. Writing has taken me a long way, and I know it can take me even further. As I step into this next chapter of my life, I couldn’t be more excited to see how my craft develops. In the meantime, I should probably get rid of that dusty old GameCube. 

Feedback from admissions professional Bill Jack

Essays don’t always have to reveal details about the student’s intended career path, but one thing I like about this essay is that it gives the reader a sense of the why. Why do they want to pursue storytelling. It also shows the reader that they are open to how they pursue their interest. Being open to exploration is such a vital part of college, so it’s also showing the reader that they likely will be open to new things in college. And, it’s always fun to learn a little bit more about the student’s family, especially if the reader can learn about how the students interacts with their family. 

Prompt 2: “The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?”

I remember my first impression of Irvine: weird. It was foggy, stock-full of greenery and eucalyptus trees, and reminded me of my 5th grade trip to a “science camp” which was located in the San Bernardino mountains. Besides Irvine, that was one of the few places in Southern California where you’d find so many non-palm trees. 

Of course, perhaps my initial impression of Irvine was biased, motivated by a desire to stay in my hometown and a fear of the unknown. While that was true to an extent, Irvine was certainly still a little peculiar. The city itself was based on a “master plan” of sorts, with the location of each of its schools, parks, shops, and arguably its trees having been logically “picked” before the foundation was poured. Even the homes all looked roughly the same, with their beige, stucco walls almost serving as a hallmark of the city itself.

Thus, this perfectly structured, perfectly safe city seemed like a paradise of sorts to many outsiders, my parents included. I was a little more hesitant to welcome this. As I saw it, this was a phony city – believing that its uniformity stood for a lack of personality. My hometown, although not as flawlessly safe nor clean as Irvine, was where most of my dearest memories had occurred. From the many sleepovers at Cindie’s house, to trying to avoid my school’s own version of the “infamous” cheese touch, to the many laughs shared with friends and family, I shed a tear at the prospect of leaving my home.

Moving into the foreign city, remnants of the hostility I held towards Irvine remained. Still dwelling in my memories of the past, I was initially unable to see Irvine as a “home.” So, as I walked into my first-ever Irvine class, being greeted by many kind, yet unfamiliar faces around me, I was unable to recognize that some of those new faces would later become some of my dearest friends. Such negative feelings about the city were further reinforced by newer, harder classes, and more complicated homework. Sitting in the discomfort of this unfamiliar environment, it started to seem that “change” was something not only inevitable, but insurmountable.

As the years went on, however, this idea seemed to fade. I got used to my classes and bike racing through Irvine neighborhoods with my friends, watching the trees that once seemed just a “weird” green blob soon transform into one of my favorite parts of the city. While I kept my old, beloved memories stored, I made space for new ones. From carefully making our way over the narrow creek path next to our school, to the laughs we shared during chemistry class, my new memories made with friends seemed to transform a city I once disliked into one I would miss. 

Through this transformation, I have come to recognize that change, although sometimes intimidating at first, can open the door to great times and meaningful connections. Although Irvine may have once seemed like a strange, “phony” place that I couldn’t wait to be rid of, the memories and laughs I had grown to share there were very real. As I move onto this next part of my life, I hope I can use this knowledge that I have gained from my time in Irvine to make the most of what’s to come. Even if the change may be frightening at first, I have learned to embrace what’s on the other side, whether green or not.

One huge plus to writing an essay that focuses on a place is that you might have it read by someone who has been there. Yet, what’s really helpful about this essay is that even if someone hasn’t been there, a picture is painted about what the place is like.  Admission officers have the hard task of really understanding what the student sees, so the use of adjectives and imagery can really help.  It’s also really clever to see that the green that’s mentioned at the beginning is mentioned at the end.  It’s a nice way to bookend the essay and tie it all together.

Prompt 6: “Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?”

I like getting lost. Not literally, of course, but figuratively. Whether it be in the story of a love song by Taylor Swift, or in the memories brought back by listening to my favorite childhood video game’s background music, I’ve always appreciated music’s ability to transport me to another place, another time, another feeling. 

Alas, I cannot sing, nor have I practiced an instrument since my middle school piano class days. So, perhaps Kurt Vonnegut was right. As he puts it, “Virtually every writer I know would rather be a musician.” While I cannot speak for others, I have certainly not debunked his theory. Writing allows many, including myself, to attempt to mimic the transformative power of music – even if our singing voices aren’t exactly “pleasant.” Just as you can get lost in music, you can do so in a story. Whether it is in George Orwell’s totalitarian Oceania, or Little Women’s Orchard House, the stories outlined in novels can provide an amazing look into the lives and worlds of others, and an escape from the worries and problems of those in your own.

While I am certainly not claiming to have the storytelling abilities of the Orwells or Alcotts before me, I’ve had fun trying to recreate such transformative feelings for others. When I was nine, I attempted to write a story about a little girl who had gotten lost in the woods, only managing to get a couple pages through. As I got older, whenever I was assigned a creative writing assignment in school, I wrote about the same pig, Phil. He was always angry: in my 8th grade science class, Phil was mad at some humans who had harbored his friend captive, and in my 9th grade English class, at a couple who robbed him. 

Thus, when I heard about a writing club being opened at my school in 11th grade, I knew I had to join. I wanted to discern whether writing was just a hobby I picked up now and then, or a true passion. If it was a passion, I wanted to learn as much as possible about how I could improve. Although my high school’s writing club certainly wasn’t going to transform me into Shakespeare, I knew I could learn a lot from it – and I did. The club challenged me to do many things, from writing on the spot, to writing poetry, to even writing about myself, something that’s hopefully coming in handy right now. 

From then on, I started to expand into different types of writing, storing short ideas, skits, and more in appropriately-labeled Google Drive folders. At around the same time, I became interested in classic literature, which largely stemmed from a project in English class. We had been required to choose and read a classic on our own, then present it to the class in an interesting way. While my book was certainly interesting and unique in its own right, nearly everyone else’s novels seemed more captivating to me. So, I took it upon myself to read as many classics as I could the following summer.

One of the books I read during the summer, funnily enough, was Animal Farm, which starred angry pigs, reminiscent of Phil. I had also started going over different ideas in my head, thinking about how I could translate them into words using the new skills I learned. While the writing club helped reaffirm my interest in writing and allowed me to develop new skills, my newfound affinity for classics gave me inspiration to write. Now, I am actually considering writing as part of my future. In this endeavor, I hope that Phil, and the music I inevitably listen to as I write, will accompany me every step of the way.

Admission officers might read 70 (or more!) essays in one day. It’s not uncommon for them to start to blend together and sound similar. This essay might not make you laugh out loud. But, it might make the reader chuckle while reading it thanks to the subtle humor and levity. Being able to incorporate a little humor into your essay (if it is natural for you to do… do not force it), can really be a great way to shed additional light into who you are. Remember, the essay isn’t merely about proving that you can write, but it should also reveal a little bit about your personality.

Prompt 5: “Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.”

I learned a lot of things during the summer I worked at Tropical Smoothie. I discovered the value of hard work. I figured out how to save money. I even mastered the art of the Mango Magic smoothie (the secret is lots of sugar). But most importantly, I learned the power of perspective. And I have Deja to thank for that. 

Deja was my shift supervisor, and one of Tropical Smoothie’s best employees. She was punctual, friendly, and always willing to lend a helping hand. She knew the store from top to bottom, and could handle pretty much any situation thrown her way. She made everyone around her better. On top of all that, she was four months pregnant! I was always impressed by Deja’s work ethic, but I gained an entirely new level of respect for her one day.

It was a Friday night, and Deja and I were working the closing shift together. It was very busy, and Deja and I were the only ones on shift. We managed to get by, but we were exhausted by the end of the evening. After wiping down the counters and mopping the floors, we closed up shop and went our separate ways. I was eager to get home. 

I walked a couple blocks to where I had parked my car. Well, it wasn’t my car actually. It was my dad’s ‘98 Chevy pickup truck, and it was in rough shape. It had no heat or A/C, the leather seats were cracked beyond repair, and the driver’s side door was jammed shut. I sighed as I got in through the passenger side and scooted over to the driver’s seat. The whole reason I was working at Tropical Smoothie was to save up enough money to buy my own car. I was hoping to have something more respectable to drive during my senior year of high school. 

I cranked the old thing up and started on my way home. But soon enough, I spotted Deja walking on the side of the road. There was no sidewalk here, the light was low, and she was dangerously close to the passing cars. I pulled over and offered her a ride. She got in and explained that she was on her way home. Apparently she didn’t have a car and had been walking to work every day. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was complaining about my set of wheels, while Deja didn’t have any to begin with.

We got to talking, and she confessed that she had been having a tough time. You would never know from the way she was so cheerful at work, but Deja had a lot on her plate. She was taking care of her mother, her boyfriend had just lost his job, and she was worried about making ends meet. And of course, she was expecting a baby in five months. On top of all that, she had been walking nearly a mile to and from work every day. The whole thing was a real eye opener, and made me reconsider some things in my own life. 

For one, I didn’t mind driving my dad’s truck anymore. It was banged up, sure, but it was a lot better than nothing. My mindset had changed. I appreciated the truck now. I began to think about other things differently, too. I started making mental notes of all the things in my life I was thankful for — my family, my friends, my health. I became grateful for what I had, instead of obsessing over the things I didn’t. 

I also gained more awareness of the world outside my own little bubble. My encounter with Deja had shown me first-hand that everyone is dealing with their own problems, some worse than others. So I started paying more attention to my friends, family members, and coworkers. I started listening more and asking how I could help. I also gave Deja a ride home for the rest of the summer. 

These are all small things, of course, but I think they make a difference. I realized I’m at my best when I’m not fixated on my own life, but when I’m considerate of the lives around me. I want to keep this in mind as I continue to grow and develop as a person. I want to continue to search for ways to support the people around me. And most importantly, I want to keep things in perspective.

Too often we can be focused on our own problems that we fail to realize that everyone has their own things going on in their lives, too.  This essay showcases how it’s important to put things in perspective, a skill that certainly will prove invaluable in college… and not just in the classroom.  Another reason I like this essay is because it provides deeper insight into the student’s life.  Sure, you might have mentioned in your activities list that you have a job.  But as this essay does, you can show why you have the job in the first place, what your responsibilities are, and more.

A few last tips

We hope these essay examples gave you a bit of inspiration of what to include in your own. However, before you go, we’d like to send you off with a few (personal statement) writing tips to help you make your essays as lovely as the memories and anecdotes they’re based off of. Without further ado, here are some of our best tips for writing your personal statements:

1. Open strong

College admissions officers read many, many essays (think 50+) a day, which can sometimes cause them to start blending together and sounding alike. One way to avoid your essay from simply fading into the background is to start strong. This means opening your essay with something memorable, whether an interesting personal anecdote, a descriptive setting, or anything else that you think would catch a reader’s attention (so long as it’s not inappropriate). Not only might this help college admissions officers better remember your essay, but it will also make them curious about what the rest of your essay will entail.

2. Be authentic

Perhaps most important when it comes to writing personal statement essays is to maintain your authenticity. Ultimately, your essays should reflect your unique stories and quirks that make you who you are, and should help college admissions officers determine whether you’d truly be a good fit for their school or not. So, don’t stress trying to figure out what colleges are looking for. Be yourself, and let the colleges come to you!

3. Strong writing

This one may seem a little obvious, but strong writing will certainly appeal to colleges. Not only will it make your essay more compelling, but it may show colleges that you’re ready for college-level essay writing (that you’ll likely have to do a lot of). Just remember that good writing is not limited to grammar. Using captivating detail and descriptions are a huge part of making your essay seem more like a story than a lecture.

4. Proofread

Last but not least, remember to proofread! Make sure your essay contains no errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. When you’re done proofreading your essay yourself, we would also recommend that you ask a teacher, parent, or other grammatically savvy person to proofread your essay as well.

Final thoughts 

With those in hand, we hope you now have a better sense of how to write your personal statement. While your grades and test scores are important when it comes to college admissions, it’s really your essays that can “make” or “break” your application. 

Although this may make it seem like a daunting task, writing an amazing personal statement essay is all about effort. Thus, so long as you start early, follow the advice listed above, and dedicate your time and effort to it, it’s entirely possible to write an essay that perfectly encapsulates you. Good luck, and happy writing!

Also see:  Scholarships360’s free scholarships search tool

Key Takeaways

  • It may take some people longer than others to know what they want to write about, but remember that everyone, including you, has something unique to write about!
  • Personal statements should be personal, which means you should avoid being too general and really strive to show off what makes you “you”
  • Time and effort are two of the most important things you can put into your personal statement to ensure that it is the best representation of yourself
  • Don’t forget to ask people who know you to read your work before you submit; they should be able to tell you better than anyone if you are truly shining through!

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  • Knowledge Base
  • Applying to graduate school
  • How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

Published on February 12, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 3, 2023.

A personal statement is a short essay of around 500–1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you’re applying.

To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application , don’t just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to demonstrate three things:

  • Your personality: what are your interests, values, and motivations?
  • Your talents: what can you bring to the program?
  • Your goals: what do you hope the program will do for you?

This article guides you through some winning strategies to build a strong, well-structured personal statement for a master’s or PhD application. You can download the full examples below.

Urban Planning Psychology History

Table of contents

Getting started with your personal statement, the introduction: start with an attention-grabbing opening, the main body: craft your narrative, the conclusion: look ahead, revising, editing, and proofreading your personal statement, frequently asked questions, other interesting articles.

Before you start writing, the first step is to understand exactly what’s expected of you. If the application gives you a question or prompt for your personal statement, the most important thing is to respond to it directly.

For example, you might be asked to focus on the development of your personal identity; challenges you have faced in your life; or your career motivations. This will shape your focus and emphasis—but you still need to find your own unique approach to answering it.

There’s no universal template for a personal statement; it’s your chance to be creative and let your own voice shine through. But there are strategies you can use to build a compelling, well-structured story.

The first paragraph of your personal statement should set the tone and lead smoothly into the story you want to tell.

Strategy 1: Open with a concrete scene

An effective way to catch the reader’s attention is to set up a scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. If you’re stuck, try thinking about:

  • A personal experience that changed your perspective
  • A story from your family’s history
  • A memorable teacher or learning experience
  • An unusual or unexpected encounter

To write an effective scene, try to go beyond straightforward description; start with an intriguing sentence that pulls the reader in, and give concrete details to create a convincing atmosphere.

Strategy 2: Open with your motivations

To emphasize your enthusiasm and commitment, you can start by explaining your interest in the subject you want to study or the career path you want to follow.

Just stating that it interests you isn’t enough: first, you need to figure out why you’re interested in this field:

  • Is it a longstanding passion or a recent discovery?
  • Does it come naturally or have you had to work hard at it?
  • How does it fit into the rest of your life?
  • What do you think it contributes to society?

Tips for the introduction

  • Don’t start on a cliche: avoid phrases like “Ever since I was a child…” or “For as long as I can remember…”
  • Do save the introduction for last. If you’re struggling to come up with a strong opening, leave it aside, and note down any interesting ideas that occur to you as you write the rest of the personal statement.

Once you’ve set up the main themes of your personal statement, you’ll delve into more detail about your experiences and motivations.

To structure the body of your personal statement, there are various strategies you can use.

Strategy 1: Describe your development over time

One of the simplest strategies is to give a chronological overview of key experiences that have led you to apply for graduate school.

  • What first sparked your interest in the field?
  • Which classes, assignments, classmates, internships, or other activities helped you develop your knowledge and skills?
  • Where do you want to go next? How does this program fit into your future plans?

Don’t try to include absolutely everything you’ve done—pick out highlights that are relevant to your application. Aim to craft a compelling narrative that shows how you’ve changed and actively developed yourself.

My interest in psychology was first sparked early in my high school career. Though somewhat scientifically inclined, I found that what interested me most was not the equations we learned about in physics and chemistry, but the motivations and perceptions of my fellow students, and the subtle social dynamics that I observed inside and outside the classroom. I wanted to learn how our identities, beliefs, and behaviours are shaped through our interactions with others, so I decided to major in Social Psychology. My undergraduate studies deepened my understanding of, and fascination with, the interplay between an individual mind and its social context.During my studies, I acquired a solid foundation of knowledge about concepts like social influence and group dynamics, but I also took classes on various topics not strictly related to my major. I was particularly interested in how other fields intersect with psychology—the classes I took on media studies, biology, and literature all enhanced my understanding of psychological concepts by providing different lenses through which to look at the issues involved.

Strategy 2: Own your challenges and obstacles

If your path to graduate school hasn’t been easy or straightforward, you can turn this into a strength, and structure your personal statement as a story of overcoming obstacles.

  • Is your social, cultural or economic background underrepresented in the field? Show how your experiences will contribute a unique perspective.
  • Do you have gaps in your resume or lower-than-ideal grades? Explain the challenges you faced and how you dealt with them.

Don’t focus too heavily on negatives, but use them to highlight your positive qualities. Resilience, resourcefulness and perseverance make you a promising graduate school candidate.

Growing up working class, urban decay becomes depressingly familiar. The sight of a row of abandoned houses does not surprise me, but it continues to bother me. Since high school, I have been determined to pursue a career in urban planning. While people of my background experience the consequences of urban planning decisions first-hand, we are underrepresented in the field itself. Ironically, given my motivation, my economic background has made my studies challenging. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for my undergraduate studies, but after graduation I took jobs in unrelated fields to help support my parents. In the three years since, I have not lost my ambition. Now I am keen to resume my studies, and I believe I can bring an invaluable perspective to the table: that of the people most impacted by the decisions of urban planners.

Strategy 3: Demonstrate your knowledge of the field

Especially if you’re applying for a PhD or another research-focused program, it’s a good idea to show your familiarity with the subject and the department. Your personal statement can focus on the area you want to specialize in and reflect on why it matters to you.

  • Reflect on the topics or themes that you’ve focused on in your studies. What draws you to them?
  • Discuss any academic achievements, influential teachers, or other highlights of your education.
  • Talk about the questions you’d like to explore in your research and why you think they’re important.

The personal statement isn’t a research proposal , so don’t go overboard on detail—but it’s a great opportunity to show your enthusiasm for the field and your capacity for original thinking.

In applying for this research program, my intention is to build on the multidisciplinary approach I have taken in my studies so far, combining knowledge from disparate fields of study to better understand psychological concepts and issues. The Media Psychology program stands out to me as the perfect environment for this kind of research, given its researchers’ openness to collaboration across diverse fields. I am impressed by the department’s innovative interdisciplinary projects that focus on the shifting landscape of media and technology, and I hope that my own work can follow a similarly trailblazing approach. More specifically, I want to develop my understanding of the intersection of psychology and media studies, and explore how media psychology theories and methods might be applied to neurodivergent minds. I am interested not only in media psychology but also in psychological disorders, and how the two interact. This is something I touched on during my undergraduate studies and that I’m excited to delve into further.

Strategy 4: Discuss your professional ambitions

Especially if you’re applying for a more professionally-oriented program (such as an MBA), it’s a good idea to focus on concrete goals and how the program will help you achieve them.

  • If your career is just getting started, show how your character is suited to the field, and explain how graduate school will help you develop your talents.
  • If you have already worked in the profession, show what you’ve achieved so far, and explain how the program will allow you to take the next step.
  • If you are planning a career change, explain what has driven this decision and how your existing experience will help you succeed.

Don’t just state the position you want to achieve. You should demonstrate that you’ve put plenty of thought into your career plans and show why you’re well-suited to this profession.

One thing that fascinated me about the field during my undergraduate studies was the sheer number of different elements whose interactions constitute a person’s experience of an urban environment. Any number of factors could transform the scene I described at the beginning: What if there were no bus route? Better community outreach in the neighborhood? Worse law enforcement? More or fewer jobs available in the area? Some of these factors are out of the hands of an urban planner, but without taking them all into consideration, the planner has an incomplete picture of their task. Through further study I hope to develop my understanding of how these disparate elements combine and interact to create the urban environment. I am interested in the social, psychological and political effects our surroundings have on our lives. My studies will allow me to work on projects directly affecting the kinds of working-class urban communities I know well. I believe I can bring my own experiences, as well as my education, to bear upon the problem of improving infrastructure and quality of life in these communities.

Tips for the main body

  • Don’t rehash your resume by trying to summarize everything you’ve done so far; the personal statement isn’t about listing your academic or professional experience, but about reflecting, evaluating, and relating it to broader themes.
  • Do make your statements into stories: Instead of saying you’re hard-working and self-motivated, write about your internship where you took the initiative to start a new project. Instead of saying you’ve always loved reading, reflect on a novel or poem that changed your perspective.

Your conclusion should bring the focus back to the program and what you hope to get out of it, whether that’s developing practical skills, exploring intellectual questions, or both.

Emphasize the fit with your specific interests, showing why this program would be the best way to achieve your aims.

Strategy 1: What do you want to know?

If you’re applying for a more academic or research-focused program, end on a note of curiosity: what do you hope to learn, and why do you think this is the best place to learn it?

If there are specific classes or faculty members that you’re excited to learn from, this is the place to express your enthusiasm.

Strategy 2: What do you want to do?

If you’re applying for a program that focuses more on professional training, your conclusion can look to your career aspirations: what role do you want to play in society, and why is this program the best choice to help you get there?

Tips for the conclusion

  • Don’t summarize what you’ve already said. You have limited space in a personal statement, so use it wisely!
  • Do think bigger than yourself: try to express how your individual aspirations relate to your local community, your academic field, or society more broadly. It’s not just about what you’ll get out of graduate school, but about what you’ll be able to give back.

You’ll be expected to do a lot of writing in graduate school, so make a good first impression: leave yourself plenty of time to revise and polish the text.

Your style doesn’t have to be as formal as other kinds of academic writing, but it should be clear, direct and coherent. Make sure that each paragraph flows smoothly from the last, using topic sentences and transitions to create clear connections between each part.

Don’t be afraid to rewrite and restructure as much as necessary. Since you have a lot of freedom in the structure of a personal statement, you can experiment and move information around to see what works best.

Finally, it’s essential to carefully proofread your personal statement and fix any language errors. Before you submit your application, consider investing in professional personal statement editing . For $150, you have the peace of mind that your personal statement is grammatically correct, strong in term of your arguments, and free of awkward mistakes.

A statement of purpose is usually more formal, focusing on your academic or professional goals. It shouldn’t include anything that isn’t directly relevant to the application.

A personal statement can often be more creative. It might tell a story that isn’t directly related to the application, but that shows something about your personality, values, and motivations.

However, both types of document have the same overall goal: to demonstrate your potential as a graduate student and s how why you’re a great match for the program.

The typical length of a personal statement for graduate school applications is between 500 and 1,000 words.

Different programs have different requirements, so always check if there’s a minimum or maximum length and stick to the guidelines. If there is no recommended word count, aim for no more than 1-2 pages.

If you’re applying to multiple graduate school programs, you should tailor your personal statement to each application.

Some applications provide a prompt or question. In this case, you might have to write a new personal statement from scratch: the most important task is to respond to what you have been asked.

If there’s no prompt or guidelines, you can re-use the same idea for your personal statement – but change the details wherever relevant, making sure to emphasize why you’re applying to this specific program.

If the application also includes other essays, such as a statement of purpose , you might have to revise your personal statement to avoid repeating the same information.

If you want to know more about college essays , academic writing , and AI tools , make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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How to Write a Personal Statement – 5 Personal Statement Examples

How to write a personal statement – introduction.

The personal statement is one of the most important parts of the college application process. For this reason, it’s often also one of the most anxiety-inducing. If you’ve been searching for personal statement examples because writing your personal statement has you worried (or excited), then you’re in the right place. 

In this article, we’ll present five personal statement examples and teach you how to write a personal statement that highlights who you are and demonstrates your full potential to colleges. We’re going to outline what a personal statement is, how colleges use them in the application process, and which topics tend to work best for college applicants. Then, we’ll offer some advice and tools to help you draft, edit, and finalize your own personal statement. Finally, we’ll walk you through five personal essay examples, breaking them down individually, so you can see just what makes them work. 

Writing a personal statement may seem like a daunting task, especially if you aren’t clear on just exactly what a personal statement for college is. After you see your first personal statement example, things may seem clearer. But first, let’s demystify the term “personal statement.” 

What is a personal statement?

Learning how to write a personal statement starts with understanding the term . I’m sure throughout the college application process you’ve heard your counselors, teachers, and classmates talking about the importance of a personal statement. While you may know that the personal statement for a university is extremely important, you still might not be clear on just what it is. You may have never even seen a personal statement example. So, before you attempt to start writing , let’s answer the questions: what is a personal statement for college? And just how do universities use them to evaluate students?

A personal statement for college is your chance to set yourself apart from other students and show admissions who you are. A strong personal statement for a university will describe your unique experiences and background in a first-person narrative. And when done well, it’s your opportunity to catch the right attention of an admission officer. 

No pressure, right? Don’t stress quite yet. The process of writing a personal statement can be fun! It’s an opportunity to write about something you’re passionate about. You’ll be able to see a personal statement example later on (five, actually!), and you’ll notice that it’s not about the perfect topic , but rather, how you tell your story. 

Personal statement basics

Now, let’s talk about personal essay specifics. Generally speaking, a personal statement will be between 400-700 words, depending on the specific university guidelines or application portal. The Common App essay must be 250-650 words. The Coalition App , by contrast, suggests that students write 500-650 words.  Try to aim for the higher end of those ranges, as you’ll be hard pressed to write a compelling personal statement without enticing descriptions. 

Apart from the word count, what’s the personal statement format? The personal statement for a university should be written in a first-person conventional prose format. You may be a wonderful poet or fiction writer but refrain from using those styles in your personal statement. While using those styles in a personal essay could occasionally be a hit with admissions, it’s best to showcase that style of writing elsewhere. If you choose to add your creative writing style to your application, you should do so by submitting a writing portfolio. Generally speaking, the strongest personal statement will be written in first-person prose language. 

General or prompted

When it comes to a personal statement for college, it will generally fall into one of two categories : general, comprehensive personal statement, or a response to a very specific personal essay prompt. In the open-ended option, you’ll want to share a story about something important related to your life. This could be about family, experiences, academics, or extracurriculars . Just be careful not to repeat your entire resume. That’s certainly not the goal of a personal essay.  

Remember, it’s a personal statement. So, share something that you haven’t elsewhere. If given a prompt, it will likely be open-ended so that you can flex your creativity and show off your writing style. You’ll be able to write a story that genuinely matters to you, ideally sharing something that has made you who you are. 

You may also need a personal statement when applying to certain programs, such as business or STEM programs. The basic idea is the same, but you’ll want to connect your experiences to the specific program. Check out the details of writing a personal statement for a specific field . 

That extra push

The college application process can seem rigid at times; the personal statement for college is your chance to show off in a way that has nothing to do with GPA or transcripts. The personal statement is an opportunity for colleges to meet students on their own terms. It’s essentially your written interview . 

At top universities, many students will have similar grades and test scores. A strong personal statement gives students the chance to stand out and show that they’re more than just numbers on a transcript. What’s the extra push that an admissions officer may need to admit a qualified student? A well-written, compelling personal statement can help you gain admittance to competitive schools . 

Having a support system throughout the college admissions process is important. Keep your parents in the loop with this personal statement webinar that offers details about the common app essay and the personal essay for college. 

You are probably wondering the same things as other students about the college application essay or college essay tips. Read an admissions officer’s response to some FAQs and get some useful college essay tips. Then, put your college admissions knowledge to the test with our quiz below!

The CommonApp Essay vs. The Personal Statement

So, we’ve discussed what a personal statement is and why it matters. Now, let’s discuss one common type of personal statement: the Common App essay. While each school may have their own personal statement topics, the Common App essay section has general prompts that will serve as your personal statement. The Common App essay will respond to one of seven prompts.

For the most up-to-date information on the Common App essay, you can check their website .

Common App Essay Questions for 2022-2023:   

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  • Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Open-ended prompts

The Common App essay personal statement prompts are intentionally open-ended. They are meant to give you the chance to tell your unique story . However, one requirement is that your Common App essay must be between 250-650 words. 

You can choose to respond to any one of the seven prompts. Remember to choose the best prompt for you. It may seem obvious, but the personal statement for college is your opportunity to share your personal story. You’ll want to choose a topic you can write well about that will show how you’ve grown or changed. It’s also your opportunity to show off your writing style. So, pick a topic you enjoy writing about!

Check out some tips on how to tackle each prompt from the Common App essay blog. You may also want to read this Common App essay overview for juniors . We’ll get into more specific details later on how to write the Common App essay– and other personal statement topics in general– later in this article.

How important is a Personal Statement?

As we’ve mentioned, the personal statement is your chance to stand out in a pool of applicants. It’s an extremely important part of any college application. A personal statement for college will be a requirement of nearly every application you complete. Admissions will use your personal statement to get a sense of who you are beyond your grades and scores. So, if you want to show colleges what makes you unique, your personal statement is the place to do it. Figuring out how to write a personal statement is key to a successful application. 

Seeing what works when it comes to your personal statement for university can be a helpful first step. U.S. News breaks down the process of writing a personal statement and gives some successful personal essay examples. Reading another student’s successful personal statement example will give you an idea of what impresses admissions. It may even get you excited about writing your own personal statement for college! 

While every school will likely require some sort of personal statement, it may actually be used differently in the admissions process. How your personal statement is judged during the admissions process will depend on a school’s size, ranking, acceptance rate , and various other factors. Larger state schools will likely put the most importance on an applicant’s grades and scores while spending little time reviewing a student’s personal statement. 

Especially important at top tier schools

However, at Ivy League schools and other elite institutions, many students have the same impressive grades, scores, and extracurriculars. The personal statement allows these schools to distinguish between high-achieving students. If you’re looking at these types of institutions, then a lot of importance should be placed on writing a personal statement that is unforgettable and impresses admissions. 

So, we know that learning how to write a personal statement is key to many successful applications, but you may be thinking: what’s the difference between a personal statement and supplemental essays? Every school you apply to via the Common App will receive an identical copy of your Common App essay. The Common App essay serves as your personal statement. 

However, each school will have their own supplemental requirements, which may include additional supplemental essays . For schools with many supplemental college essay prompts, your personal essay may not have as much of an impact on your overall application. Admissions officers will see your writing style, and likely your personality, in all of the college essay prompts you submit. 

Additional personal statements

Still, you should always treat your personal essay with the utmost care. It can make a huge difference in the admissions process. You may also need to write other personal statements when applying to scholarships or specific programs . It’s good to get used to the process and the personal statement format during college application season. 

When should I start writing my Personal Statement?

When it comes to all things in the college application process, including any college application essay, it’s best to start early . Don’t leave your personal statement for a university until the last moment. Writing a personal statement will take time. The sooner you start your personal statement for college, the more likely you are to succeed. 

This doesn’t mean that you should start writing your personal statement for university the summer before your sophomore year. High school is a time for development, and colleges want to get to know you at your most mature. It’s just good practice to start thinking about how to write a personal statement early on. 

Review personal statement examples

Think about personal statement format, personal statement topics, and personal statement ideas. Look at other students’ personal statement examples. You can start jotting down potential ideas for your personal essay for college at any time, which may be useful down the line. But, you don’t need to actually start writing your personal statement until the summer before your senior year .

Be open-minded to changing your personal statement topic as you grow and discover new things about yourself. Check out this personal statement webinar on how one student switched her personal essay for college at the last moment. Just like there is no set personal statement format, there are no rules against mixing up your topic as you see fit. But, at least try to allow yourself some time to revise and edit your personal essay for college to perfection.

What do I write in a personal statement?

There’s no one-size-fits-all outline when it comes to how to write a personal statement. Your personal statement for university will depend on your own background, interests, and character. Overall, it’s not the personal statement topics that will catch the eye of admissions officers– it’s how you write your story that will. You need to know how to write a personal statement that not only checks the boxes but is also powerful . 

Important things to keep in mind when writing your personal statement: 

Choose a topic you’re passionate about.

What would you be excited to write about? Chase the personal statement topics that seem fun to write, think about, and talk about. If you’re passionate about your personal statement, your audience will feel it and be engaged. 

Really be you

Authenticity is key when it comes to writing a personal statement. After all, it’s your chance to tell your story and really show admissions who you are. Whatever you write about, make sure it is true, honest, and authentic to your experiences.

Give it some flair

Ok, we don’t mean do something too unconventional like a personal statement haiku. But, you should show off your writing style in your personal statement for college. Admissions officers want to get to know you and your writing. 

Knowing how to start a personal statement or how to start a college essay, in general, is often the most difficult part of the process. You’ll want to brainstorm some personal statement topics to get your creative juices flowing. CollegeAdvisor.com offers a masterclass on brainstorming personal statement topics for the Common App essay in case you need some help with how to start a college essay or a personal statement. 

Still have doubts? Read more on how to write a personal statement and get some college essay tips from CollegeAdvisor.com’s admissions experts. It will also be helpful to look at some successful personal essay examples and understand why they worked . Good personal statement examples can inspire you to tackle writing your own personal essay for college.  

Exploring Personal Statement Topics

It seems logical that when exploring the process of how to write a personal statement, you should start thinking about personal statement ideas. What are the best topics to write about in a personal statement? If you look at various successful personal statement examples, you’ll likely realize the topic isn’t necessarily the most important part. You don’t need to write about something that no one else has ever written about. You just need your personal statement to have its own unique spin. Lean into brainstorming personal statement ideas that show who you are. It’s helpful to read some personal statement examples for inspiration. 

While there is no exact formula for “how to write a personal statement”, there are some basic guidelines that students should follow. The personal statement should be written in first-person nonfiction prose form. Often, a personal statement introduction will include a story or an anecdote and then expand to reveal the impact of that experience on the writer. 

You may be specifically wondering how to start a personal statement. Well, it could be with a moment, a place, or a conversation that spurred some sort of change or growth within you. While this isn’t necessarily a “personal statement format,” it’s a very general format that works. 

Things to avoid

We now know that the personal statement format is fluid, but there are some things to avoid when thinking about how to write a personal statement: 

  • Profanity, explicit content, or crude language. 
  • Lying or misinterpreting events. Keep it authentic. 
  • Sharing overly personal descriptions of troubling life experiences. Remember that applying to college requires professional boundaries. 
  • Writing a narrative that revolves around others. The personal statement is all about you and your experiences. 

If you want to know what a bad personal statement example would look like, imagine one that includes any of the formerly listed items. You don’t want to catch an admissions officer’s attention for the wrong reasons. Good personal statement examples will be engaging, but inoffensive. Check out some more do’s and don’ts when it comes to how to write a personal statement.   

When pondering “how to write a personal statement,” it’s good to know that you don’t need to follow conventional essay guidelines. The best personal statement examples will exude passion and professionalism, while a bad personal statement example will lack soul. If you’re excited about a topic, then that’s a great place to start! Now, let’s get into the actual writing. 

How do you write a good Personal Statement?

To review, in the first part of this series of three articles on how to write a personal statement we answered the question “What is a personal statement?” We also explained how schools use a student’s personal statement for college to evaluate them. We described the Common App essay as an example of a personal statement for a university. Next, let’s dig into how to write a personal statement, including how to start a personal statement, the best tips for writing a personal statement, and some good personal statement examples and personal essay examples to inspire you.

First, you have probably wondered how to write a personal statement that stands out from the rest. It all comes down to one thing: authenticity. The best personal statement examples and personal essay examples show schools what makes the writer unique, and they are written in an authentic voice. When giving advice about how to write a personal statement, admissions officers say that the best personal statement examples tell them who the student is beyond their coursework and grades. They are personal, and they tell a unique and interesting story.

Considering Personal Statement topics

So, as you think about how to write a personal statement, you may also wonder what the best personal statement topics are. When writing a personal statement, including the Common App essay, you don’t have to share an exciting story about the time you wrestled a wild bear or how you discovered a cure for cancer. For example, in their advice on how to write a personal statement, Wellesley College advises , “Tragedy is not a requirement, reflection and depth are.” 

Some of the best personal statement topics focus on insights about common experiences. Begin your brainstorming process by reviewing the list of Common App essay prompts as you think about writing a personal statement, and choose a story that genuinely matters to you. Then, get excited about telling it! Think about writing a personal statement, including the Common App essay and every other personal essay for college, as an opportunity to lean into your quirkiness or to share your unique insights.

What’s more, a good personal statement for a university should be well-written. Consider the advice offered by Purdue Online Writing Lab : “Be specific, write well and correctly, and avoid cliches.” This will take time—writing a good personal statement for a university or a good Common App essay doesn’t happen overnight. The process of writing a personal statement will include multiple sessions between the first phase of brainstorming and the final phase of editing. Be prepared to write and rewrite, and never hesitate to ask for help from an advisor, counselor, parent, or trusted adult. However, remember that your work should always be your own.

Now, let’s discuss how to start a personal statement.

How do you start a personal statement?

So, now you have the basic information on how to write a personal statement, including your Common App essay. Next, you’re probably asking, “But how do you start one?” In this section, we’ll break down the process of exploring personal statement ideas and how to start a personal statement. This information also applies to thinking about how to start a college essay. Then, we’ll discuss how to write a personal statement opening.

Brainstorming is usually the first phase of any writing project to generate personal statement ideas. You may want to read a personal statement example like those here or here for inspiration to help get your personal statement ideas flowing. Next, ask yourself some idea-generating questions : Who have your intellectual influences been?  Which careers are you considering and why? What personal goals do you have? As you think about the answers to these typical college essay prompts, jot down personal statement ideas that occur to you. If you’re still feeling stuck, ask a close friend or family member , “What do you think differentiates me?,” or “What are my quirks?”

Pick a topic that excites you

Then, once you have a few good topics for your personal statement, choose one that you feel most excited to write about. Write a draft of your personal statement introduction and see what other ideas occur to you for later parts of your essay. Choose another topic and do the same thing. Don’t feel like these initial drafts need to be perfect—words on the page are always a great start! The goal right now is to decide which personal statement topics you feel most inspired to write about. Which ideas reflect something interesting about you ? 

Once you have selected which topic you will focus on for your personal statement, Common App essay, or personal essay for college, think about crafting a strong hook. The opening line (or lines) of the best personal statement examples include a “hook” for the reader, grabbing their attention and making them want to keep reading. For example, you could start with a question, an unusual or surprising statement, or an anecdote that will leave readers wondering what comes next. Whichever approach you select when considering how to start a college essay, make sure to use engaging language and vivid imagery.

Remember, start early and write several drafts .

The personal statement is an opportunity to write about a topic that is important to you and that also reflects your personality . Now, let’s discuss the personal statement format.

How do you format a personal statement?

Different applications may require different approaches to your personal statement format. In some cases, you may copy and paste your personal statement into an application and it will format itself automatically. In other situations, you will need to set up your personal statement format yourself. If this is the case, Times New Roman font, 12-point, with conventional margins and double spacing is a safe personal statement format.

When you are submitting your personal statement or Common App essay through the Common App, you may notice that the Common Application text box only allows formatting for bold, italics, and underlining. Therefore, it’s best to write your personal statement in Google Docs or Word and to write your paragraphs with block formatting (not indented). In addition, using Google Docs or Word will also allow you to easily check spelling and word counts before pasting your personal statement into the Common App.

Editing your Personal Statement

Many students wonder what the editing process for their personal statement for college, including the Common App essay and other personal essays for college, should look like. This varies by student and by essay. But, the best personal statements for a university go through at least several rounds of edits.

Firstly, once you have written the first draft of your personal statement for a university or personal essay for college, take a step back for a few hours or even for a day. Then, return with fresh eyes. Is your narrative well organized? Are there sections that seem unclear, ideas that don’t support your main point, or awkward sentences? You may want to reorder your paragraphs or sentences or delete and rework other elements. Revisit a personal statement example and consider how it is organized for comparison. 

Making the cut

In short, don’t be afraid to cut sentences that don’t directly relate to the main focus of the essay or convey some important detail of the story. This will help clarify your narrative. Also, make sure that you have centered your writing around your own experiences—the story should reflect your perspective and insights.

Next, once you are confident that your personal statement is well organized and your main ideas are clear, do another round of detailed editing. Eliminate any typos or repetitive language; make sure you have proper grammar and spelling throughout.

Finally, ask a trusted adult to read your personal statement and provide feedback. Something that you thought was clear may not be to them. Also, ask them how engaging your personal statement is, and if there are sections that seem dry or unimportant. Ask whether your hook is effective, and review tips on how to start a personal statement if necessary. Sometimes feedback can be difficult to hear, but it helps to remember that even professional writers seek input from others. The goal is to create the best personal statement possible!

For more detailed advice on revising your personal statement, check out this CollegeAdvisor personal statement webinar, “ Revising the Personal Statement .”

How do I know when my personal statement is done?

There’s no definitive way to know when your personal statement for a university is done—you can keep editing most writing forever. However, as you revise and edit, you’ll notice that you have fewer things to fix with every new draft. Once you feel like there’s nothing major left to change, get feedback from someone you trust. 

Your College Advisor expert can also provide valuable feedback and guidance at this point. If the notes and suggestions from others are also limited, you may be nearly ready to finalize your personal statement for college and press “submit.”

6 Tips for Writing a Great Personal Statement 

1. be authentic.

Remember, admissions officers want to know about you —your personality, your interests, your goals. A great personal statement is personal . Your personal statement for a university needs to express your unique ideas and insights in your own voice. Nobody can tell your story better than you. So, choose a topic that interests you and let your energy and ideas shine through.

Being personal also means that you should share sensory details and your internal dialogue. What did you see or hear at a critical moment? What were you thinking or feeling during that pivotal conversation? The more personal details you share, the more interesting your personal statement will be.

2. Start early

This is one of the most important tips on how to write a personal statement. You can start brainstorming topics for your personal statement at any time during high school. Some students keep a notebook where they write down personal statement topics and ideas as they occur to them over time. They also begin reading other good personal statement examples and Common App essays for inspiration. 

Regardless, a good plan is to solidify a draft of your personal statement for college the summer before your senior year. This will give you time to work on supplemental essays and other parts of your applications during the fall of your senior year.

3. Brainstorm before you write

Take some time to think and reflect deeply before you begin writing. Don’t feel like you need to jump into a full essay draft as soon as you complete your junior year. Do some writing exercises and brainstorming activities first, including reading other personal statement examples. 

In each personal statement example you read, pay close attention to the personal statement introduction, the narrative arc, and the conclusion. Did the writer incorporate an effective technique for how to start a college essay? Why is the essay interesting? What does it tell you about the writer? 

4. Tell a story

Keep in mind that well-told stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They also engage the reader and arrive at a clear message or point by the end. In short, the best personal statement examples follow a narrative arc. 

Start with an interesting hook and use it as an introduction to a story from your life that addresses the given college essay prompt. Then, use the latter half of your personal statement or Common App essay to show why this story matters and how it reveals a key part of your identity. And always remember: show, don’t tell.

5. Avoid common mistakes

Steer clear of cliches in your writing—they do not help you stand out or demonstrate strong writing skills. Also, do not use your personal statement or Common App essay as an opportunity to rehash your activities or achievements. Remember, these are included in other parts of your application. 

The best personal statement examples show admission officers something about the writer that is not reflected in other parts of the application. They describe first-hand experiences and provide specific examples to illustrate ideas.

6. Edit carefully

Once you’ve written your personal statement for college, look for anything that doesn’t feel right. Eliminate awkward phrasing, delete or replace repeated words and phrases, and work to streamline your language. You might delete entire drafts, and that’s okay! It’s a process, and all the work you do gets you closer to your best work. Also, make sure to ask a few others whom you trust to read your essay and provide suggestions for edits.

Bonus tip: Ask for help

A second set of eyes can make a huge difference. Ask an advisor (like our team at CollegeAdvisor.com), counselor, or parent to look over your work. Don’t let anyone write your sentences for you—instead, use their input to help your voice shine through. 

For more great college essay tips on how to write a personal statement and college essays, check out this advice from college admission experts.

Personal Statement- Frequently Asked Questions

Where can i find a good personal statement example.

There are a variety of websites that offer good personal essay examples as models you can use to inspire you. A good place to begin is here , and there are also examples of personal statements in the next article of this series. As you read these examples, take note of the personal statement introduction, as well as how the writer focuses the essay on a specific topic or idea that reflects their personality.

Is it ever too late to change my personal statement?

While it is much better to begin writing your personal statement early, sometimes students decide later in the writing process that they want to rethink the personal statement topic they have chosen. If you find yourself in this position, you will find some helpful advice in this CommonApplicant.com personal statement webinar . 

My parents didn’t go to college. How do I explain personal statements and how to write a personal statement to them?

CollegeAdvisor.com has created a special personal statement webinar just for parents. In this webinar, we describe personal statements, the specifics of how to write a great college essay, and other college admissions terms.

I’m a high school junior. What should I be doing now to prepare to write my personal statement and college essays?

First, congratulations on thinking ahead! You can begin by reading “ Common App Essay Overview for Juniors .” Then, your CollegeAdvisor admissions expert can help you begin brainstorming and planning for your college application essays. They can provide you with examples of common college essay prompts, as well as helpful college essay tips. Also, they can provide suggestions on how to start a personal statement and share other resources on how to write a great college essay.

How will college admission officers evaluate my personal statement and college application essay?

Admission officers are looking for personal stories that are well told. How closely each of your college application essays is read will vary depending both on the school and the other components of your application. However, as more schools become test-optional, admission officers say that college essays are becoming even more important in the admissions process. So, as you plan your essays keep in mind that admission officers want to learn about you —your experiences, thoughts, and goals. They also want to see that you have solid writing skills, so make sure that you closely edit your essays before you submit them.

If you would like to hear directly from an admission officer and learn more about how to write a great college essay, including specific advice on how to start a college essay, check out this “ 39 Essay Tips ” article.

How is the personal statement for a university different from the Common App essay and personal essay for college? 

The Common App essay asks students to write a personal statement in response to one of seven provided prompts. All types of personal essays for college provide students with an opportunity to introduce themselves to college admission officers on their own terms. For a more detailed description of each of these types of essays, check out the first article in this series, “How to Write a Personal Statement.”

For answers to more frequently asked questions about personal statements for college and college essays, click here .

In the first part of this series discussing how to write a personal statement, we answered the questions “What is a personal statement?” and “How important is the personal statement?” In this second article of the series, we have covered the specifics of how to write a personal statement, including descriptions of the writing phases of the personal statement and personal essay for the college writing process. In the next article, we will examine personal statement examples and highlight key elements of each personal statement example. 

Introducing 5 Personal Statement Examples

By this point, you’ve gone from asking, “What is a personal statement?” to knowing how to write a personal statement. Now, let’s look at some personal statement examples. Reading personal statement examples is great preparation for writing your own personal statement for college.

However, keep in mind that reading about how to write a personal statement is one thing–writing a personal statement is entirely different. By reading these personal statement examples and why they worked, you’ll have a better grasp of how to write a personal statement.

Each of these personal statement examples shows something that isn’t clear in the rest of the application. Top schools accepted all the writers of these personal statement examples. Our guide will walk you through each of these personal essay examples and discuss what makes them work. We hope by reading these, you can learn more about how to write a personal statement.

Personal Statement Example #1: Choosing a Great Topic

The first of our personal statement examples was written by a student who was accepted to Yale, Princeton, and other top schools. Their personal statement discusses the legacy of antisemitic violence in their family. While political and religious topics can be difficult, this student writes a fantastic college application essay about their topic.

Personal Essay Example #1

Across the ocean, there is war. Children mistaking rockets for fireworks, parents too protective—too careful—to correct them.          Back home, there are phone calls. To family, to friends. In English, in Hebrew.          “Are you safe?”         I pray they live far from Jerusalem.          Right here, in my room, there is turmoil.          Furiously swiping through Instagram, I wonder who will betray me next. I wonder which friend will decide that their loosely related, offensive commentary belongs on their profile.          Once the deed is done, I am quick to unfollow. To cut off perpetrators of what Jewish journalists call “the Social Media Pogrom”: when targeting the Jewish people online turns to real antisemitic violence (and a powerful reason to unfollow my friends).          So I flee from my friends’ Instagram accounts. But only because my family fled from much worse.          My grandfather found himself wearing a yellow star, living in a ghetto, and losing everything to the Nazis. One day, he ripped off the star and ran. Even though it meant never seeing his family again.          He did not flee for a better life; he fled for any life.          His son came to marry another refugee: my mother. Her story is a familiar one, shared by many in my hometown: escaping yet another antisemitic regime whose existence threatened her own, my mother fled Revolutionary Iran in 1979. Fortunately, she was reunited years later with all eight of her siblings, who had escaped in various other creative, illegal ways—“on camelback” being a personal favorite.           To this day, she bears a scar on her eyelid from antisemitic violence back home.          My family tree’s roots are settled in the soil of persecution. Swastikas have sawed away at its structure, and Revolutionary Guards have bent its branches. I know too well which winds will threaten the leaves: words wishing my people death, implicitly or explicitly. Calling on my cousins to evacuate their homes, for they are on the Jewish side of the land dispute. Denying the reality that no one deserves to be displaced.         When I hear these words, see them on a screen, I sense a chillingly familiar breeze. Sometimes, the breeze blows away a few leaves: a rabbi is stabbed, a synagogue vandalized.          Suddenly my friends, teetering on the edge of antisemitism with waves of painful posts, are no longer my friends. They are my enemies.          But then I hear a little voice:         “David, what on Earth are you doing?”         And I remember that they are not. They are not Nazis or Revolutionary Guards. I should not shun them or cease to show them love. I cannot wallow in my rage or simply “unfollow”—not on Instagram, not in life.          I soon return those beloved friends to my circle. I “follow” them once again.         Because dialogue is my lifestyle. I ought to be recruiting my friends to Model Congress or engaging them in class. Welcoming the people around me to a world of positive, exciting, and purposeful discourse is the best I can do. It’s also who I am.          My family passed down a sensitive radar for harmful rhetoric, but also gifted me with a powerful belief—a Jewish belief—in informed discussion and coexistence. Holding no hate in their hearts, my ancestors wore lenses of love that did not belong to their oppressors.         Today, I wear those same lenses with pride. Once infuriating Instagram posts no longer cloud my vision. I’ve instead fallen in love with the precious diversity of thought that surrounds me and find myself most at home when I am immersed in political dialogue.          I will face many “enemy” opinions, but I will not shut my eyes and cover my ears, give up a dear human connection, and miss out on a meaningful experience.            I will approach individuals with humanity rather than animosity, acceptance rather than judgement, and love rather than hate.          I will live by the lessons of my ancestors. 

What Worked?

What did this Common App essay do well? Firstly, it covers a great topic. This student writes about their family’s experience with antisemitic violence and its legacy in their life today. When writing a personal statement for college, such sensitive personal statement topics can be challenging. In this case, the writer successfully centers their experiences and thoughts rather than on controversial events.

Moreover, they cut through political tension with a core reality rooted in empathy: “No one deserves to be displaced.” This is a great strategy if you’re wondering how to write a personal statement on a sensitive topic. All personal statement topics have an angle that makes them universally relatable. If your personal essay for college is missing something, try an empathetic approach.

Ask for help revising

Don’t forget to ask other people to revise your personal statement for university. What makes sense to you may not read well to others. Especially with sensitive topics, share your work with someone you can trust to give you feedback. If possible, also include a non-family member like a teacher or guidance counselor who knows how to write a personal statement.

This student connects their family’s troubles with their own worldview. Good personal statement examples offer a look at the author as a person. A strong topic lets you reflect on how your experiences have impacted your engagement with the world and other people. And as shown above, the writer chose a great topic –not necessarily a great college essay prompt. College essay prompts are wide-ranging , and good personal statement ideas can come from any of them. Indeed, whatever your prompt is, personal essay examples are ultimately about you . 

Evocative language and imagery

With this in mind, look at how the writer’s attitude changes throughout their Common App essay. Good personal statement examples contain precise, evocative language and imagery. When you’re writing a personal statement, find the right words—not necessarily the longest ones—and sentence structures you need. This personal statement begins in a panic; the writer “furiously swiping” in the “turmoil” of their room, keenly attuned to betrayal from friends. These words and the short paragraphs bring each thought into sharp focus.

The writer’s passion for their subject shows through their language. Using structural repetition in “Wishing…. Calling…. Denying…” establishes a serious tone and keeps the personal statement fresh. In the latter half, words like “beloved,” “lenses of love,” and “precious diversity” signify a shift to a gentle, loving attitude. The best personal essay examples choose their words precisely. By choosing words carefully in combination with poetic and rhetorical devices, you can write a stellar personal statement for university.

Certainly, family histories can be great personal statement topics. Even so, suffering doesn’t automatically make a strong personal statement for university. If you know how to write a personal statement, even at first mundane personal statement ideas can become good personal statement examples.

Personal Statement Example #2: Finding a Great Hook

The second of our personal statement examples is by a student who was accepted to UC San Diego, Johns Hopkins, the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, and more. In their personal statement for college, this student uses their interest in Rubik’s cubes to frame other parts of their life.

Personal Statement Example #2

My life is as simple as a Rubik’s Cube: a child’s toy that can be solved in 20 moves or less IF and only if enough knowledge is gained. I received one on my 9th birthday and over the following months, I became obsessed with it.  I rotated the rows aimlessly, hoping that eventually the cube would solve itself. I was naive about the complexity of the cube which led me to apply some research. I began looking up tutorials on YouTube about solving the toy and was in awe over the amount of work that had to be done. I forced myself to go step by step until I could arrange a single face, and my progress pushed me forward until I could solve 4 of the 6 faces of the cube. Every night for an hour I would randomize the colors again and work my way back to ⅔ of the cube being complete. Until this point, I lacked the confidence in my everyday life and had never aimed for a difficult goal, especially one without external motivation. However, what I love about solving the cube is that you can follow the steps perfectly and still run into a stalemate based on the arrangement of the squares. This forces you to randomize the cube again and start from step 1. All the hard work and time put into this object can be useless, but it is unavoidable no matter what you do. Multiple times I faced this dilemma of running into a wall, but instead of giving up, my will pushed me forward. I shed many tears over my failures to solve a child’s toy. I needed to push through these failures until I could learn how to arrange the last faces of the cube. And just like that, it was complete! The Rubik’s Cube was arranged correctly. However, I wanted to get faster. I was inspired by the greatest, the individuals who could solve cubes within 5 seconds, and mix up the cube once more. I tried over and over until the point of obsession where I could get the cube arranged in under a minute. Sometimes it is necessary to disarrange a completed face of the cube in order to achieve the end goal of every face being complete. The colors of a cube can be compared to my academics, my athletics, my art, my leadership, my hobbies, and my family life. Though it is a struggle to juggle all these tasks, it is the desire to expand in all these subjects that pushes me forward. I want to learn more and master subjects within my academics, improve my form and get faster within my athletics, grow my skills of digital design within art, become a stronger role model as a leader, volunteer more within my hobbies, and get closer to supporting my family.  This mindset will continue to push me to expand my present knowledge and learn new concepts in order to complete my goals. 43,252,003,274,489,856,000: That is how many combinations there are for a single 3×3 Rubik’s cube, and there are probably even more combinations ahead of me in my journey through college and beyond. I have to struggle to learn how to solve my cube and put in the hard work in order to succeed at this game of life. Once I finish school and solve my cube for the first time, the game is not over. The next steps are to refine my work and ethics until I can get the process of solving my own cube down to 20 moves or less. My life goal is to carve a name for myself among the best and the brightest in the surgical field, yet there is always more knowledge to obtain which will drive me to continue growing.

Take a look at that hook! The classic personal statement format begins with a hook to draw the reader into a story, and this is no different. This personal statement introduction, “My life is as simple as a Rubik’s cube”, is bold, even seemingly contradictory, until you read the rest of the sentence. Either way, it makes you want to keep reading this personal statement example. 

The worst thing a personal statement for a university can be is boring. A good hook starts your reader off on the right foot. While many personal statement examples begin in the middle of a story, making a bold claim is also common. If you’re wondering how to start a personal statement, start thinking about what opening sentence would grab your attention.

Like the first essay’s writer, this student also uses descriptive language to bring their Common App essay to life. They didn’t simply try the Rubik’s cube, but they “rotated the rows aimlessly”. Rather than saying they kept working on the cube, the writer shows us how they scrambled and resolved it every night. When writing a personal statement, do your own experiences justice with the right descriptive language .

Thinking about tone

You may notice the tone of this personal essay example is very different from the first– intensity isn’t everything! In fact, it’s a reflection of the different subject matter of these personal essay examples. When writing your personal statement, your tone should match what you are trying to say. In the same way that one word can make a sentence, another can totally break it. 

From a vivid description of their childhood, the writer expands the scope of their Common App essay to other areas of their life. Good personal statement examples explore subjects that other parts of your application don’t. In this case, this student uses the Rubik’s cube to represent their varied activities and their aspirations for each. They also reflect on life lessons and personal traits: perseverance, ambition, and curiosity.

In other words, the writer creates parallels between their interest in Rubik’s cubes and their personal journey. In the same way that they obsess over speed-solving, the writer works to excel in other subjects. Furthermore, the writer shows us this instead of directly telling — a maneuver fundamental to all good personal statement examples. The writer makes a compelling case as not only an applicant but also as a future member of the campus community. 

Consider chronology

Notice the chronological structure this student uses for their Common App essay. Specifically, see how it follows the writer’s life from their first Rubik’s cube to the present day. This is a simple way to craft a strong Common App essay. Personal essay examples like this make it easy to reflect on your growth, which is crucial for any personal statement for college. Lastly, by ending with the 20 moves needed to solve a cube, the writer neatly ties up this personal statement example.

Personal Statement Example #3: The Value of a Great Ending

The third of our personal statement examples is by a student who got into the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Southern California. The writer talks about how being on the swim team helped them cultivate confidence.

Personal Essay Example #3

When I joined the high school swim team, I never expected to go to school dressed as Shrek. Yet as Freshman Friday approached, I learned it was team tradition for upperclassmen swimmers to dress freshmen teammates in ridiculous costumes. Against my will, my teammates splotched green paint on my face, styled my hair into pigtails covered in green paper, and stuffed a pillow under my sweatshirt. Attending my classes was mortifying. With every stare, I buried my head further into my textbook and shifted my hand to cover my green and now bright red face; with every chuckle, I sank deeper into my seat, attempting to hide my massive pillow stomach. The frown on my face felt like a permanent fixture, and after dealing with the humiliation for a class period, I was done. I yanked the pillow out of my sweatshirt and ripped the paper from my hair. The only hint of swamp ogre that remained was the green face paint. When confronted about my lack of Shrek-ness at the end of the day, I claimed I was overheating and that the paper had fallen apart.  I lied. I was just embarrassed. I always knew I was shy — the “too-timid-to-signal-the-waiter” type of shy — but until Freshman Friday, I hadn’t realized the extent to which it affected the social and academic aspects of my life. Ever since I was young, my jaw would clench at the thought of humiliating myself by deviating from the norm and bringing attention to myself. I often closed myself off from friends by diverting conversations to trivial topics like gym class when they probed me about deeper subjects like my mental health. I even avoided participating in class by scouring Google for hours for physics help to circumvent admitting to my classmates that I was confused by asking questions. By hiding in the shadows to avoid embarrassment, I hindered my ability to cherish the humor in being Shrek, and, more broadly, my comfort in freely expressing myself.  However, I loved swimming and wanted to make my high school team’s environment as wonderful for me as my love for the sport. I slowly started creeping out of my shell, meeting the team, and participating in more voluntary dress-up days. Freshman year, I wore a dragon onesie on pajama day; sophomore year, I wore a Hawaiian shirt, a lei, and sunscreen for tacky tourist day. Junior year, I wore my swimsuit over leggings, goggles, medals, pigtails with award ribbons, and a towel cape, finally surpassing the ridiculousness of the Shrek costume. For the first time, I finally felt confident enough to prance around the school, laughing about my costume with my classmates. I felt like a true part of my team, joking with teammates, taking pictures, and letting the whole school know that I swam. With each year and its dress-up days, I gradually felt more of the sense of community, team spirit, and fun that I had craved.  Dressing up unleashed my confidence. This, in turn, made me happier and more involved in my school community. Most surprisingly, though, was how dressing up eventually better prepared me to enter engineering. Hispanic women are severely underrepresented in engineering, so I used to fear that I would be incapable of establishing a strong enough presence and earning my peers’ respect for my ideas. However, with every group discussion I initiated, every question I asked, and every club meeting I hosted, I saw myself making a place for my input and noticed that my teachers and peers actually valued it. I realized that I had found my voice and even enjoyed sharing my opinions. I’m now ready to take on the challenge of expressing my thoughts in a male-dominated field. In the meantime, I’m just looking forward to my swim team’s next dress-up day.

Like our last essay, this personal statement has an awesome hook. In fact, the writer drops us right into the action. This technique, known as in media res , is great for a Common App essay. You can immediately set the scene for your reader, then build context from there. Not only does the writer bring us right in, but they also expertly use language for tone. “Ridiculous,” “against my will,” and “splotched” all illustrate the writer’s opposition to what’s about to happen. This is an effective technique in personal statement examples.

Following the anecdote, the writer reflects on their intense shyness. They show self-awareness by recounting specific instances where fear got the better of them. Yet again, we can see the importance of showing rather than telling in a personal statement. Each sentence provides an example of how the writer’s shyness had a negative impact on their social and academic success. Thus, we see the true conflict in this personal statement isn’t the costume, but the writer overcoming their lifelong shyness. 

Personal growth and development

Ask anyone how to write a personal statement and they’ll tell you about growth. When writing a personal statement for university, demonstrating personal growth and an ability to reflect on it is key. Across college essay prompts, you should explore how your experiences have shaped or changed you. Being able to indicate specific causes and effects is part of all good personal statement examples.

From there, the writer clearly illustrates their journey from insecurity to confidence. They show us the ways that their shyness manifested before. Then, the writer shows us the increasingly ridiculous costumes they wore. Of course, the language changes, too—the writer goes from “creeping” to “prancing”! Yet another example of how small changes to wording can have a huge impact on your personal statement for college.

Finally, the writer provides a sound conclusion. They mention the numerous benefits of their newfound confidence and, more importantly, look forward. In the final paragraph, the writer takes the lessons they’ve learned and discusses how they will use them to accomplish their goals. Like both of the personal essay examples we’ve already seen, the writer closes by talking about the doors they want to open.

Circling back to your hook

We saw the effectiveness of linking the hook and closing paragraph in previous personal statement examples. Similarly, this personal statement example ends with the idea of dress-up day once again. This kind of personal statement format helps bring everything full circle. In learning about how to write a personal statement, the conclusion is one of the most important parts. Especially in chronologically structured personal statements, closing the loop in this way makes your personal statement feel complete .

The best personal statement examples have a well-written conclusion. Taking your personal statement ideas and addressing them neatly in the conclusion is important. Whether you explain particular future goals or simply affirm your personal values, you should have a future-facing closer. Colleges want to know not only how you’ve grown, but also how you will bring that growth to campus. 

Personal Statement Example #4: Why This Essay Worked

Fourth on our list of personal statement examples is by a writer who applied to performing arts programs. This student wrote about their love for the performing arts and their heritage. They were accepted to schools like NYU Tisch, Point Park, and Roosevelt University. Look for the college essay tips we already mentioned in the personal statement below.

Common App Essay Example #4

At six years old, most kids I know get excited to help Blue find clues or recite Elmo’s songs on Sesame Street. So you can imagine my family’s surprise when they saw me ignoring the other kids to go belt alongside my grandfather’s mariachi trio in the backyard. Growing up, I had always loved performing for people. But my passion for performing in front of a packed house never compared to performing for my favorite audience: my great grandmother. From age seven to twelve, my dad would take our family on a three-hour road trip to visit my great grandmother’s nursing home every single weekend. I remember the clean, antiseptic smell, and the beeping of her oxygen concentrator as I perched myself next to her bed and sang all types of songs from romantic boleros to earwormy Disney tunes. Even as she began failing to recognize her loved ones due to her worsening Alzheimer’s, she would always remember me, her “palomita blanca,” or white dove. But as I got older, singing what once were innocent songs, like “Edelweiss” or “Almost There,” started to make me feel like an imposter. I knew I belonged on stage, but I never saw any Mexican representation in any of my favorite musicals and animated cartoons. By seventh grade, I was plucking away at my full eyebrows for community theatre the night before auditions because I was told it would give me a better chance at landing a lead role. When my great grandmother passed away, I had lost the person who constantly reminded me how powerful staying true to your identity is. Without her, I questioned whether I had a chance at pursuing the thing that lights my soul aflame. But I stuck through the late nights, sprained ankles, and endless sweating under stage lights, because I loved theatre more than anything else in the world. In my freshman year, I joined the Conservatory of the Arts program for dance and drama at my high school. After my first show, I remember feeling so comforted by the fact that I finally felt that I belonged in the theatre kid community. In sophomore year, I finally got my first lead role as Gertrude in my high school’s production of Seussical. At last! All of my hard work had paid off and I was going to be a lead after six years of ensembles. I was so excited to get the chance to show myself and the world that my identity was my power. I didn’t want to be any old Gertrude. I’d stay up until 2 a.m. on weekends coming up with ways to make her more memorable. Inspired by Juan Gabriel’s emotional ballads, I added vocal cry to Gertrude’s solos to better portray her insecurities. Instead of sticking to just belting in “All For You,” I sang runs similar to the high energy mariachi songs I grew up with to show off my character’s passion and newfound confidence. But in March 2020, the world stopped, and the show couldn’t go on. Distanced learning made the performing arts programs nowhere near as fun or educational as they used to be. Still though, as president of the drama program in 2021, I am determined to rebuild a community that was torn apart by a worldwide pandemic. I want to be the mentor I never had. My confidence in my identity has been an important tool in teaching others that practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes progress. I work hard encouraging others not to be afraid to show the world what they have. Musical theatre is an art that thrives with innovation, so I’d like to bring the creative spice which my culture has enriched me with to the world’s stage. Maybe someday I can be that actress on stage or TV that’ll get a little Latina girl enthralled by the arts.

In this personal essay example, the writer uses vivid storytelling to show how they became the person they are today. Firstly, the hook tells us how the writer values both performance and her family. This light, fun personal statement introduction quickly goes for the heartstrings by introducing the writer’s great-grandmother. Personal statement examples sometimes avoid talking about family, because it’s easy to lose focus on the writer. But this writer never loses sight of their own memories, emotions, and experiences.

Equally important, those experiences are well-illustrated with rich imagery that clearly conveys the writer’s passion for their topic. Details like the smell and sound of the nursing home bring us into the moment. The writer also provides some examples of what they endured in theatre: “late nights” and “sprained ankles.” Use concrete images to get your personal statement ideas across with impact .

Also, the writer makes a point to explore the intersections of their Hispanic heritage and their passion for theatre. Particularly, the writer discusses their difficulty in putting them together, as shown by plucking their eyebrows. By establishing this conflict in the middle of her personal statement, the writer indicates their awareness of the wider world and their place in it. Many good personal statement examples will create context like this, showing the author thinking beyond themselves.

Show commitment to your topic

Broadly, the writer discusses their twin passions with powerful language and imagery. Exhibiting genuine enthusiasm for your personal statement topics is key. This personal statement shows that the writer has always been moved by their family and by the arts. Their triumph in combining the two feels huge precisely because we understand how much each of these things mean to them. Even if your personal statement topics aren’t as deep-seeded as this writer’s, you should show commitment to what you’re writing about.

If you’re reading this, COVID probably disrupted your school life at some point, as it did for this student. However, be careful not to linger on it more than necessary. This writer doesn’t completely gloss over the pandemic, but they keep their own journey at the center of the personal statement. The writer’s experience with distanced learning propelled them forward. Ideally, your personal statement for the university should keep a tight focus on you. The narrative personal statement format should show not only your experiences but also what you’ve learned from them.

Personal Statement Example #5: Pulling It All Together

The fifth and last of our personal statement examples is by another student who got into several top schools. They write about their participation and leadership at a club event. Keep an eye out for all the tips we’ve mentioned, from a good hook to showing-not-telling.

Personal Statement #5

One hundred and fifty bagels, all completely frozen. I couldn’t believe it. My school’s Model UN Conference was to start in thirty minutes, and breakfast for the delegates was nowhere near ready. I looked with dismay at my friends’ concerned faces peering out from behind piles of frozen bagels. As Secretary-General, it was my job to ensure that this conference went smoothly. However, it seemed that was not going to be the case. I took a moment to weigh my options before instructing Hannah, our “logistics coordinator,” to heat up the frozen circles of doom in the home-ec room. I knew Hannah enjoyed baking, so I trusted her to find a way into the locked room and thaw the assortment of bagels.  Cold bagels were not the only thing weighing heavily on my mind that morning. As I walked from classroom to classroom helping set up committees, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. Our conference wasn’t going to be like those of the private schools- there were no engraved pens or stylish water bottles. Instead, people got post-it notes and whatever pens we could steal from the supply closet. Forcing myself to stop worrying, I chose instead to think of why we made that choice. Since most of the food was donated, and all of the supplies had been “borrowed” from the supply closet, we could afford to charge only a nominal fee to everyone attending. Making Model UN accessible was one of my top priorities as Secretary-General; the same desire motivated me to begin including middle school students in the club. I hurried back down to the cafeteria, and was relieved to see that all the bagels looked warm and ready to eat.  The bagels would not be the sole crisis that day. As debates were about to start, one of the Chairs sent me a panic stricken text: “We only have 5 people in our committee! We can’t reenact the creation of the Treaty of Versailles!” I hurried to where his debate was taking place, and sure enough, only five people were there. I quickly considered my options- cancel the committee?  Convince some delegates to switch into this debate through bagel bribery? Or maybe, come up with a completely new topic?  I settled on idea number three. But what topic could a committee of only five people spend a day discussing? I mulled it over until an idea began to form. I explained to the room, “Each one of you will represent one of the five major Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. The chair will guide you as you tweet, make campaign videos, and debate the most important political issues.” I spent a few minutes figuring out how to go about moderating such an unconventional committee, before heading off to check in on the other debates.  As I walked from committee to committee, fixing problems and helping move debates along, I felt a sense of pride. I had spent months working on this conference, along with the other members of my team. At times, I worried I could never pull it off. A part of me had wished our faculty advisor would just organize the whole thing for us. After all, I’m just a high schooler, how could I put together such a big event? But as the day went by, I realized that with the help of my peers, I had done it. All the little crises that cropped up weren’t because I was doing a bad job; they were inevitable. The fact that I could find solutions to such a wide variety of problems was a testament to my leadership skills, and my level-headedness. I didn’t just feel like a leader—I felt like an adult. As I look towards my future in college and later the workforce, I know that I can succeed, even if my obstacles seem as insurmountable as a mountain of frozen bagels. 

This writer has a great example of how to start a college essay. Their strong hook makes us curious – why are there so many? What’s going on, and can the writer fix it? The essay’s tone is clear from the outset, and we’re drawn in by the conflict. Moreover, the writer establishes themselves as a leader and problem-solver.

Like a short story character, this writer encounters various obstacles. Throughout this personal statement, the writer shows off their resourcefulness, leadership skills, and quick thinking. While other people are in this personal statement example, the focus never wavers from the writer’s thoughts and actions. Additionally, the writer details the thought process behind each of their solutions.

As we’ve mentioned, a good personal statement for a university shows information, rather than telling it. This writer walks through various aspects of the conference in the second paragraph, then explains their reasoning. Instead of just saying they wanted to make the conference accessible, the writer shows us how they made it possible by organizing food donations and only charging a small fee. This Common App essay shows us what the writer is like through actions as well as words.

A narrative of learning and growth

As with our other personal statement examples, the writer wraps up with a strong conclusion that recalls the hook. They recount their personal growth throughout this process. In addition, the writer elaborates on the lessons they have taken from this experience. As shown above, introspection on personal growth and values is part of any good personal essay for college. This Common App essay makes a solid case for its writer as a future student and community member.

In sum, this writer takes a seemingly insignificant anecdote and uses it to reveal something critical about their experiences. By highlighting particular, telling moments, the writer shows us their personality and capability. What’s more, by using engaging language and a clear structure, the writer makes a lasting impact on the reader. For these reasons, this is a superb example of a personal statement for college.

CollegeAdvisor Resources on Writing a Great Personal Statement

By now, you’ve seen several personal statement examples and confidently say you know how to write a personal statement. But maybe you feel you need a little more information. A good personal statement for college starts with early preparation. Getting a head start on writing your personal essay for college is a great idea.

We at CollegeAdvisor have no shortage of guides on how to write a personal statement. We’ve got quick college essay tips from our admissions experts . If you have some more time, here are some frequently asked questions answered by an Admissions Officer. If you’re more of a watcher than a reader, check out a personal statement webinar from CollegeAdvisor.

How to Write a Personal Statement: Final Thoughts

You made it to the end! Now you know how to write a great college essay. Let’s briefly recap what we covered in this “How to Write a Personal Statement” guide.

Firstly, we answered the question, “What is a personal statement?” We outlined the expected length, personal statement format, and how important they are in the application process. Then, we explored some of the most common and effective personal statement topics.

Next, we looked at how to write a personal statement. We gave advice and tips on drafting, editing, and finalizing your personal essay for college. Specifically, we talked about the value of strong hooks, your unique voice, and editing.

Finally, we reviewed five personal statement examples and discussed what made them work. Each of our personal essay examples had effective language, structure, and other techniques that may inspire your writing.

Still a little stuck on how to write a personal statement for college? Aside from college essay tips and personal statement webinars, CollegeAdvisor also offers one-on-one support. We have hundreds of Admissions Experts and former Admissions Officers available to support you. Our Admissions Experts can work with you to help you craft a college application essay that highlights your potential.

This guide was written by Sarah Kaminski , Lori Dunlap , and Gina Goosby . No matter what stage you are at in your college search, CollegeAdvisor.com is here to help. We’ve created a wide range of guides, to help you navigate the college admissions process from building your school list all the way to packing for your freshman fall. For more specialized guidance on writing a personal statement, click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.

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By Nik Taylor (Editor, The Uni Guide) | 18 August 2023 | 22 min read

How to write an excellent personal statement in 10 steps

Stand out from the crowd: here's how to write a good personal statement that will get you noticed

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what is personal statement for university application

Your personal statement forms a core part of your university application, and the sooner you get going, the better you can make it. You may think that your personal statement won’t matter as much to unis as your grades and experience but a great personal statement could make all the difference between you and a candidate with the same grades. Sure, your application might not reach that deal breaker stage. But is it something you want to leave to chance?  Here we’ll take you through the process of planning, writing and checking a good personal statement, so you end up with something you can submit with confidence. And to make sure the advice we're giving you is sound, we’ve spoken to admissions staff at loads of UK universities to get their view. Look out for video interviews and advice on applying for specific subjects throughout this piece or watch our personal statement playlist on YouTube .

  • Are you looking for personal statement examples? Check our library of hundreds of real personal statements, on The Student Room

Personal statement deadlines

You'll need to make sure you've got your personal statement written well in advance of your application deadline. Below are the main university application deadline dates for 2024 entry.

2024 entry deadlines

16 October 2023: Deadline for applications to Oxford and Cambridge universities, along with most medicine, dentistry, and veterinary courses.   31 January 2024: Deadline for applications to the majority of undergraduate courses. After this date, universities will start allocating places on these courses –   but you can still apply after the 31 January deadline , as this article explains . 30 June 2024:  Students who apply after this date will be entered into Clearing .

  • Read more: Ucas deadlines and key application dates

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is a central part of your Ucas application, where you explain why you’ve chosen a particular course and why you’ll be good at it. It's your chance to stand out against other candidates and hopefully get that all-important offer. You only write one personal statement which is then read by each university you apply to, so if you are applying for more than one subject (or it's a combined course) it's crucial that you include common themes or reference the overall skills needed for all subjects. Personal statements are especially important if you’re trying to get on a very competitive course, where you need to do anything you can to stand out to admissions tutors. Courteney Sheppard, senior customer experience manager at Ucas, advises that your personal statement is "the only part of the application that you have direct control over. Do lots of research to demonstrate your passion, curiosity and drive to pursue your chosen subject." There’s a limit on how much you can write: your personal statement can be up to 4,000 characters (including spaces) or 47 lines of 95 characters (including spaces); whichever is shorter. This may appear generous (read: long) but once you've got going you may find yourself having to edit heavily.

  • Read more: teacher secrets for writing a great personal statement

1. Plan what you want to cover

The first thing you need to do is make a plan. Writing a personal statement off the top of your head is difficult. Start by making some notes, answering the following questions:

  • What do you want to study?
  • Why do you want to study it?
  • What is there about you that shows you’re suited to studying this subject at university? Think about your personality, as well as your experiences.
  • What are your other interests and skills?

These few points are going to form the spine of your personal statement, so write them in a way that makes sense to you. You might want to make a simple bulleted list or you might want to get all arty and use a mindmap. Whatever you choose, your aim is the same. You want to get it clear in your own head why a university should offer you a place on its course. Getting those details down isn't always easy, and some people find it helpful to make notes over time. You might try carrying a notebook with you or set up a memo on your phone. Whenever you think of something useful for your personal statement, jot it down. Inspiration sometimes comes more easily when you’re thinking about something else entirely. It might help to take a look at The Student Room for some sample personal statements by university and sample personal statements by subjects , to give you an idea of the kind of thing you want to include. 

  • Read more: personal statement FAQs

2. Show off your experience

Some things are worth adding to your personal statement, some things are not. Firmly in the second camp are your qualifications. You don’t need to mention these as there’s a whole other section of your personal statement where you get to detail them very precisely. Don’t waste a single character going on about how great your GCSE grades are – it’s not what the admissions tutor wants to read. What they do want to see is: what have you done? OK, so you’ve got some good grades, but so do a lot of other applicants. What have you done that’s different, that shows you off as someone who really loves the subject you’re applying for? Spend some time thinking about all the experience you have in that subject. If you’re lucky, this might be direct work experience. That’s going to be particularly appropriate if you’re applying for one of the more vocational subjects such as medicine or journalism . But uni staff realise getting plum work experience placements is easier for some people than others, so cast your net wider when you’re thinking about what you’ve done. How about after-school clubs? Debating societies? Are you running a blog or vlog? What key skills and experience have you picked up elsewhere (eg from hobbies) that could be tied in with your course choice? Remember, you’re looking for experience that shows why you want to study your chosen subject. You’re not just writing an essay about what you're doing in your A-level syllabus. Use this checklist as a guide for what to include:

  • Your interest in the course. Why do you want to spend three years studying this subject at university?
  • What have you done outside school or college that demonstrates this interest? Think about things like fairs/exhibitions, public lectures or voluntary work that is relevant to your subject.
  • Relevant work experience (essential for the likes of medicine, not required for non-vocational courses such as English )
  • Skills and qualities required for that career if appropriate (medicine, nursing and law as obvious examples)
  • Interest in your current studies – what particular topics have made an impression on you?
  • Any other interests/hobbies/experiences you wish to mention that are relevant either to the subject or 'going to uni'. Don't just list your hobbies, you need to be very selective and state clearly what difference doing these things has made to you.
  • Plans for a gap year if you’re deferring entry.

Read more: 6 steps you need to take to apply to university

3. Be bold about your achievements

Don't be bashful about your achievements; that’s not going to help you get into uni. It's time to unleash your inner Muhammed Ali and get all “I am the greatest” with your writing. Do keep it focused and accurate. Do keep your language professional. But don’t hide your qualities beneath a layer of false modesty. Your personal statement is a sell – you are selling yourself as a brilliant student and you need to show the reader why that is true. This doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and if you’re finding it difficult to write about how great you are it’s time to enlist some help. Round up a friend or two, a family member, a teacher, whoever and get them to write down your qualities. Getting someone else’s view here can help you get some perspective. Don’t be shy. You are selling your skills, your experience and your enthusiasm – make sure they all leap off the screen with the way you have described them.

  • Read more: the ten biggest mistakes when writing your personal statement  

4. How to start your personal statement

Type your personal statement in a cloud-based word processing program, such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word and don’t copy and paste it into Ucas Hub until it’s finished.  One of the benefits of doing it this way is that you can run spell check easily. (Please note, though, that Word adds "curly" quotation marks and other characters (like é or ü) that won't show up on your Ucas form, so do proofread it on Ucas Hub before submitting it to ensure it is how you typed it.)  Another big benefit is that you'll always have a backup of what you've written. If you're being super careful, you could always save your statement in another place as well. Bear in mind that extra spaces (eg adding spaces to the beginnings of paragraphs as indentation) are removed on Ucas. In your first sentence, cut to the chase. Why do you want to do the course? Don’t waste any time rambling on about the daydreams you had when you were five. Just be clear and concise – describe in one line why this course is so important to you. Then, in the rest of your intro, go into more detail in demonstrating your enthusiasm for the course and explaining how you decided this is what you want to do for the next three or more years. However you choose to start your statement, just avoid the following hoary old chestnuts. These have been some of the most used lines in personal statements over the years – they are beyond cliche, so don’t even think about it.

  • From a young age I have (always) been [interested in/fascinated by]…
  • For as long as I can remember, I have…
  • I am applying for this course because… 
  • I have always been interested in… 
  • Throughout my life I have always enjoyed… 
  • Reflecting on my educational experiences… 
  • [Subject] is a very challenging and demanding [career/profession/course]… 
  • Academically, I have always been… 
  • I have always wanted to pursue a career in… 
  • I have always been passionate about…   

5. Focus your writing on why you've chosen that subject

So you’ve got your intro done – time to nail the rest of it. Bear in mind that you’ve got to be a little bit careful when following a personal statement template. It’s easy to fall into the trap of copying someone else’s style, and in the process lose all of your own voice and personality from your writing. But there is a rough order that you can follow, which should help keep you in your flow. After your opening paragraph or two, get into any work experience (if you’ve got it). Talk about extracurriculars: anything you've done which is relevant to the subject can go here – hobbies, interests, volunteering. Touch on your career aspirations – where do you want this course to take you? Next, show your enthusiasm for your current studies. Cite some specific examples of current work that you enjoyed. Show off your relevant skills and qualities by explaining how you’ve used these in the past. Make sure you’re giving real-world examples here, not just vague assertions like “I’m really organised and motivated”. Try to use examples that are relevant.   Follow this up with something about you as a person. Talk about non-academic stuff that you like to do, but link it in some way with the course, or with how it shows your maturity for dealing with uni life. Round it all off by bringing your main points together, including a final emphasis of your commitment to studying this particular course.

  • Read more: how to write your personal statement in an evening  

6. How long should a personal statement be?

You've got to work to a very specific limit when writing your personal statement. In theory you could use up to 4,000 characters – but you’re probably more likely to be limited by the line count. That's because it's a good idea to put line breaks in between your paragraphs (to make it more readable) and you only get a maximum of 47 lines. With this in mind, 3,500 characters is a more realistic limit. But when you’re getting started you should ignore these limits completely. At first, you just want to get down everything that you feel is important. You'll probably end up with something that is far too long, but that's fine. This is where you get to do some polishing and pruning. Keep the focus of your piece on the course you’re applying for, why you want to do it and why you’re perfectly suited to it. Look through what you’ve written so far – have you got the balance right? Chop out anything that goes on a bit, as you want each point to be snappy and succinct.

  • Read more: universities reveal all about personal statements  

7. Keep it simple

8. Smart ways to end your personal statement

Writing a closing line that you’re happy with can feel as tricky as coming up with your opener. What you’re looking for here is a sign-off that is bold and memorable. The final couple of sentences in your statement give you the opportunity to emphasise all the good stuff you’ve already covered. Use this space to leave the reader in no doubt as to what an excellent addition you would be to their university. Pull together all your key points and – most importantly – address the central question that your personal statement should answer: why should you get a place on the course?

  • Read more: universities explain how to end your personal statement with a bang  

9. Make sure your personal statement has no mistakes

Now you’ve got a personal statement you’re happy with, you need to make sure there are no mistakes. Check it, check it a second time, then check it again. Once you’ve done that, get someone else to check it, too. You will be doing yourself a massive disservice if you send through a personal statement with spelling and/or grammatical errors. You’ve got months to put this together so there really is no excuse for sending through something that looks like a rush job. Ask your teachers to look at it, and be prepared to accept their feedback without getting defensive. They will have seen many personal statements before; use what they tell you to make yours even better. You’ve also got another chance here to look through the content of your personal statement, so you can make sure the balance is right. Make sure your focus is very clearly on the subject you are applying for and why you want to study it. Don’t post your personal statement on the internet or social media where anyone can see it. You will get picked up by the Ucas plagiarism checker. Similarly, don't copy any that you find online. Instead, now is a good time to make your parents feel useful. Read your personal statement out to them and get them to give you feedback. Or try printing it out and mixing it up with a few others (you can find sample personal statements on The Student Room). Get them to read them all and then try to pick yours out. If they can't, perhaps there's not enough of your personality in there.  

10. Don't think about your personal statement for a whole week

If you followed the advice at the very start of this guide, you’ve started your personal statement early. Good job! There are months before you need to submit it. Use one of these weeks to forget about your personal statement completely. Get on with other things – anything you like. Just don’t go near your statement. Give it a whole week and then open up the document again and read through it with fresh eyes. You’ll gain a whole new perspective on what you’ve written and will be well placed to make more changes, if needed.

  • Read more: how to write your personal statement when you have nothing interesting to say  

10 steps to your ideal personal statement

In summary, here are the ten steps you should follow to create the perfect personal statement.  

Personal statement dos and don'ts

  • Remember that your personal statement is your personal statement, not an article written about your intended field of study. It should tell the reader about you, not about the subject.
  • Only put in things that you’re prepared to talk about at the interviews.
  • Give convincing reasons for why you want to study the course – more than just "enjoying the subject" (this should be a given).
  • For very competitive courses, find out as much as you can about the nature of the course and try to make your personal statement relevant to this.
  • Be reflective. If you make a point like 'I like reading', 'I travelled abroad', say what you got from it.
  • Go through the whole thing checking your grammar and your spelling. Do this at least twice. It doesn’t matter if you’re not applying to an essay-based course – a personal statement riddled with spelling mistakes is just going to irritate the reader, which is the last thing you want to do. If this is something you find difficult then have someone look over it for you.
  • Leave blank lines between your paragraphs. It’s easier for the reader to get through your personal statement when it’s broken into easily digestible chunks. Remember that they’re going to be reading a lot of these! Make yours easy to get through.
  • Get someone else's opinion on your statement. Read it out to family or friends. Share it with your teacher. Look for feedback wherever you can find it, then act upon it.
  • Don’t write it like a letter. Kicking off with a greeting such as "Dear Sir/Madam" not only looks weird, it also wastes precious space.
  • Don’t make jokes. This is simply not the time – save them for your first night in the union.
  • Don’t criticise your current school or college or try to blame teachers for any disappointing grades you might have got.
  • Be afraid of details – if you want your PS to be personal to you that means explaining exactly which bits of work or topics or activities you've taken part in/enjoyed. It's much more compelling to read about one or two detailed examples than a paragraph that brushes over five or six.
  • Just list what you're doing now. You should pull out the experiences that are relevant to the courses which you're applying to.
  • Mention skills and activities without giving examples of when they have been demonstrated by you or what you learnt from them. Anyone can write "I have great leadership skills" in a PS, actually using a sentence to explain when you demonstrated good leadership skills is much rarer and more valuable.
  • Refer to experiences that took place before your GCSEs (or equivalent).
  • Give explanations about medical or mental health problems. These should be explained in your reference, not your PS.
  • Apply for too many different courses, making it difficult to write a convincing personal statement which supports the application.
  • Write a statement specific to just one institution, unless you're only applying to that one choice.
  • Copy and paste the statement from somewhere else! This means do not plagiarise. All statements are automatically checked for plagiarism by Ucas. Those that are highlighted by the computer system are checked manually by Ucas staff. If you’re found to have plagiarised parts of your statement, the universities you apply to will be informed and it could jeopardise your applications.
  • Use ChatGPT or another AI program to write your personal statement for you. Or, if you do, make sure you thoroughly edit and personalise the text so it's truly yours. Otherwise you're very much at risk of the plagiarism point above.

You may want to look at these...

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How to Write a Personal Statement That Wows Colleges

← What Is an Application Theme and Why Is It Important?

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what is personal statement for university application

  Most of the college applications process is fairly cut and dry. You’ll submit information about your classes and grades, standardized test scores, and various other accomplishments and honors. On much of the application, your accomplishments must speak for themselves. 

The personal statement is different though, and it’s your chance to let your voice be heard. To learn more about the personal statement, how to choose a topic, and how to write one that wows colleges, don’t miss this post.

What is the Personal Statement?

Personal statements are used in both undergraduate and graduate admissions. For undergrad admissions, personal statements are any essays students must write to submit their main application. For example, the Common App Essay and Coalition Application Essay are examples of personal statements. Similarly, the ApplyTexas Essays and University of California Essays are also good examples .

Personal statements in college admissions are generally not school-specific (those are called “supplemental essays”). Instead, they’re sent to a wide range of schools, usually every school you apply to. 

What is the Purpose of the Personal Statement?

The personal statement is generally your opportunity to speak to your unique experiences, qualities, or beliefs that aren’t elsewhere represented on the application. It is a chance to break away from the data that defines you on paper, and provide a glimpse into who you really are. In short, it’s the admissions committee’s chance to get to know the real you.

So, what are colleges looking for in your personal statement? They are looking for something that sets you apart. They are asking themselves: do you write about something truly unique? Do you write about something common, in a new and interesting way? Do you write about an aspect of your application that needed further explanation? All of these are great ways to impress with your personal statement.

Beyond getting to know you, admissions committees are also evaluating your writing skills. Are you able to write clearly and succinctly? Can you tell an engaging story? Writing effectively is an important skill in both college and life, so be sure to also fine-tune your actual writing (grammar and syntax), not just the content of your essay.

Is your personal statement strong enough? Get a free review of your personal statement with CollegeVine’s Peer Essay Review.

How To a Choose A Topic For Your Personal Statement

Most of the time, you’re given a handful of prompts to choose from. Common personal statement prompts include:

  • Central aspect of your identity (activity, interest, talent, background)
  • Overcoming a failure
  • Time you rose to a challenge or showed leadership
  • Experience that changed your beliefs
  • Problem you’d like to solve
  • Subject or idea that captivates you

One of the questions that we hear most often about the personal statement is, “How do I choose what to write about?” For some students, the personal statement prompt triggers an immediate and strong idea. For many more, there is at least initially some uncertainty.

We often encourage students to think less about the exact prompt and more about what aspects of themselves they think are most worthy of highlighting. This is especially helpful if you’re offered a “topic of your choice” prompt, as the best essay topic for you might actually be one you make up!

For students with an interesting story or a defining background, these can serve as the perfect catalyst to shape your approach. For students with a unique voice or different perspective, simple topics written in a new way can be engaging and insightful.

Finally, you need to consider the rest of your application when you choose a topic for your personal statement. If you are returning from a gap year, failed a single class during sophomore year, or participated extensively in something you’re passionate about that isn’t elsewhere on your application, you might attempt to address one of these topics in your statement. After all, the admissions committee wants to get to know you and understand who you really are, and these are all things that will give them a deeper understanding of that.

Still, tons of students have a decent amount of writer’s block when it comes to choosing a topic. This is understandable since the personal statement tends to be considered rather high stakes. To help you get the ball rolling, we recommend the post What If I Don’t Have Anything Interesting To Write About In My College Essay?

Tips for Writing a Personal Statement for College

1. approach this as a creative writing assignment..

Personal statements are difficult for many students because they’ve never had to do this type of writing. High schoolers are used to writing academic reports or analytical papers, but not creative storytelling pieces.

The point of creative writing is to have fun with it, and to share a meaningful story. Choose a topic that inspires you so that you’ll enjoy writing your essay. It doesn’t have to be intellectual or impressive at all. You have your transcript and test scores to prove your academic skills, so the point of the personal statement is to give you free rein to showcase your personality. This will result in a more engaging essay and reading experience for admissions officers. 

As you’re writing, there’s no need to follow the traditional five-paragraph format with an explicit thesis. Your story should have an overarching message, but it doesn’t need to be explicitly stated—it should shine through organically. 

Your writing should also feel natural. While it will be more refined than a conversation with your best friend, it shouldn’t feel stuffy or contrived when it comes off your tongue. This balance can be difficult to strike, but a tone that would feel natural when talking with an admired teacher or a longtime mentor is usually a good fit.

2. Show, don’t tell.

One of the biggest mistakes students make is to simply state everything that happened, instead of actually bringing the reader to the moment it happened, and telling a story. It’s boring to read: “I was overjoyed and felt empowered when I finished my first half marathon.” It’s much more interesting when the writing actually shows you what happened and what the writer felt in that moment: “As I rounded the final bend before the finish line, my heart fluttered in excitement. The adrenaline drowned out my burning legs and gasping lungs. I was going to finish my first half marathon! This was almost incomprehensible to me, as someone who could barely run a mile just a year ago.”

If you find yourself starting to write your essay like a report, and are having trouble going beyond “telling,” envision yourself in the moment you want to write about. What did you feel, emotionally and physically? Why was this moment meaningful? What did you see or hear? What were your thoughts?

For inspiration, read some memoirs or personal essays, like The New York Times Modern Love Column . You could also listen to podcasts of personal stories, like The Moth . What do these writers and storytellers do that make their stories engaging? If you didn’t enjoy a particular story, what was it that you didn’t like? Analyzing real stories can help you identify techniques that you personally resonate with.

3. Use dialogue.

A great way to keep your writing engaging is to include some dialogue. Instead of writing: “My brothers taunted me,” consider sharing what they actually said. It’s more powerful to read something like:

“Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” they taunted. “Having some trouble?” They prodded me with the ends of the chewed branches and, with a few effortless scrapes of wood on rock, sparked a red and roaring flame. My face burned long after I left the fire pit. The camp stank of salmon and shame. 

Having dialogue can break up longer paragraphs of text, and bring some action and immediacy to your story. That being said, don’t overdo it. It’s important to strike a balance between relying too much on dialogue, and using it occasionally as an effective writing tool. You don’t want your essay to read like a script for a movie (unless, of course, that’s intentional and you want to showcase your screenwriting skills!).

Want free essay feedback? Submit your essay to CollegeVine’s Peer Essay Review and get fast, actionable edits on your essay. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Personal Statements

1. giving a recap or report of all the events..

Your essay isn’t a play-by-play of everything that happened in that time frame. Only include relevant details that enrich the story, instead of making your personal statement a report of the events. Remember that the goal is to share your voice, what’s important to you, and who you are. 

2. Writing about too many events or experiences. 

Similarly, another common mistake is to make your personal statement a resume or recap of all your high school accomplishments. The Activities Section of the Common App is the place for listing out your achievements, not your personal statement. Focus on one specific experience or a few related experiences, and go into detail on those. 

3. Using cliche language.

Try to avoid overdone quotes from famous people like Gandhi or Thoreau. Better yet, try to avoid quotes from other people in general, unless it’s a message from someone you personally know. Adding these famous quotes won’t make your essay unique, and it takes up valuable space for you to share your voice.

You should also steer away from broad language or lavish claims like “It was the best day of my life.” Since they’re so cliche, these statements also obscure your message, and it’s hard to understand what you actually mean. If it was actually the best day of your life, show us why, rather than just telling us.

If you want to learn more about personal statements, see our post of 11 Common App Essay Examples .

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

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What to include in a Personal Statement

what is personal statement for university application

Personal Statement Tips

Nail your uni application with our personal statement examples.

Discover personal statements by subject, from A to Z. Find inspiration for your own application with these successful personal statement examples from real students.

A-Z of Personal Statements

Learn from previous student personal statements here. We have collated over 700 personal statement examples to help you on your university journey and to help you with how to write a personal statement.

These personal statement examples will show you the kind of thing that universities are looking for from their applicants. See how to structure your personal statement, what kind of format your personal statement should be in, what to write in a personal statement and the key areas to touch on in your statement.

A personal statement is a chance to tell your university all about you - a good personal statement is one that showcases your passion for the subject, what inspired you to apply for the course you’re applying for and why you think you would be an asset to the university.

Our collection includes personal statement examples in Mathematics, Anthropology, Accounting, Computer Science, Zoology and more.

Writing a personal statement has never been easier with our vast collection of personal statement examples.

Personal Statement

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Personal Statement Help

What is a personal statement.

A personal statement is an essay written by a student applying to either a college or university. A personal statement is written and then uploaded to UCAS and is then attached to any university applications that the student may then make.

If you need more information check out our personal statement advice articles .

How to write a personal statement

There isn't a clearly defined personal statement template for you to use as each person's statement is different.

When it comes to writing a personal statement for universities, your personal statement should touch on your passions, your interest in the course, why you're applying for the course and why you would be an asset to the university you're applying to.

Talk about the clubs and societies that you belong to, any work experience you may have and any awards you might have won.

If you're still looking for information check out our article on how to write a personal statement .

How to start a personal statement

When it comes to starting your personal statement, the best thing to do is to be succinct and to have enough tantalising information to keep the reader informed and eager for more.

Your introduction should touch on your personal qualities and why you are applying for the subject you're applying for. Keeping things short and sweet means that it also allows you to break your personal statement up, which makes it easier for the reader.

We have plenty of advice for students that are wondering about what to include in a personal statement .

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How to write a personal statement

How to approach writing your personal statement for graduate applications.

If you’re applying for a grad course that requires a personal statement (sometimes also called a ‘statement of purpose’), it can be difficult to know where to start and what to include. Read on for tips from some of our masters’ students about their process and what they found helpful.

1. Before you start

The academic work is the most important reason why we’re here, but that also translates into work experiences, internships, volunteering. I think a big part of the personal statement is crafting that narrative of academic self that fits alongside your professional experiences, to give that greater picture of who you are as an academic. Lauren (MSc Modern Middle Eastern Studies)

Start by thinking about the skills, knowledge and interests you’ve acquired over time and how the course at Oxford will take them forward.

Your statement is the story you want to tell about yourself and your academic work to the department you are applying to.

Most of your application and its supporting documents communicate plain facts about your academic career so far. Your personal statement is your best opportunity to put these facts into context and show assessors how you’ve progressed and excelled.

Make sure you highlight evidence of your achievements (a high grade in a relevant area, an award or scholarship, a research internship).

Presenting yourself

When I was writing my personal statement, I went onto my course website. I looked at what they emphasised and what kind of students they were looking for, and I wrote about my experiences based on that. Kayla (MSc in Clinical Embryology)

Make it easy for an assessor to see how you meet the entry requirements for the course (you can find these on each course page ).

Don’t make any assumptions about what Oxford is looking for!

Get to know your department

You want to study this particular subject and you want to study at Oxford (you’re applying here, so we know that!) but why is Oxford the right place for you to study this subject? What interests or qualities of the academic department and its staff make it attractive to you?

Use your academic department’s website for an overview of their research, academic staff and course information (you'll find a link to the department's own website on each course page ).

I said, ‘why do I actually want to be here? What is it about being at Oxford that’s going to get me to what I want to do? Sarah (Bachelor of Civil Law)

Talk it out

Talking to others about your statement can be a great way to gather your ideas and decide how you’d like to approach it. Sarah even managed to get benefit out of this approach by herself:

“I spent a lot of time talking out loud. My written process was actually very vocal, so I did a lot of talking about myself in my room.”

2. The writing process

Know your format.

Make sure you’ve read all the guidance on the How to Apply section of your course page , so you know what’s needed in terms of the word count of the final statement, what it should cover and what it will be assessed for. This should help you to visualise roughly what you want to end up with at the end of the process.

Make a start

When it comes to writing your personal statement, just getting started can be the hardest part.

One good way to get around writer’s block is to just put it all down on the page, like Mayur.

First - write down anything and everything. In the first round, I was just dumping everything - whatever I’ve done, anything close to computer science, that was on my personal statement. Mayur (MSc Computer Science)

You’ll be editing later anyway so don’t let the blank page intimidate you - try writing a little under each of the following headings to get started:

  • areas of the course at Oxford that are the most interesting to you
  • which areas you’ve already studied or had some experience in
  • what you hope to use your Oxford course experience for afterwards.

3. Finishing up

Get some feedback.

Once you’ve got a draft of about the right length, ask for feedback on what you’ve written. It might take several drafts to get it right.

This could involve getting in touch with some of your undergraduate professors to ask them to read your draft and find any areas which needed strengthening.

You could also show it to people who know you well, like family or friends.

Because they’re the first people to say, ‘Who is that person?’ You want the people around you to recognise that it really sounds like you. It can be scary telling family and friends you’re applying for Oxford, because it makes it real, but be brave enough to share it and get feedback on it. Sarah (Bachelor of Law)

Be yourself

Finally - be genuine and be yourself. Make sure your personal statement represents you, not your idea about what Oxford might be looking for.

We have thousands of students arriving every year from a huge range of subjects, backgrounds, institutions and countries (you can hear from a few more of them in our My Oxford interviews).

Get moving on your application today

To find out more about supporting documents and everything else you need to apply, read your course page and visit our Application Guide .

Applicant advice hub

This content was previously available through our  Applicant advice hub . The hub contained links to articles hosted on our  Graduate Study at Oxford Medium channel . We've moved the articles that support the application process into this new section of our website.

  • Application Guide: Statement of purpose

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Personal statements for university applications

Forming a key part of your university application, you should use the UCAS personal statement to showcase how your skills, experience and aspirations make you a good fit for the course

What is a university personal statement?

With two sides of A4 to work with, this is your opportunity to tell course tutors in your own words the reasons why you feel you'd be an asset to their university.

How long should a personal statement be?

There's no maximum word count, but you'll need to remain within the 4,000 character limit (including spaces and punctuation) allowed in your UCAS application, as well as keeping the statement to a total of 47 lines of text.

UCAS recommends that you write your personal statement in Microsoft Word before copying and pasting it into the online application form. This is because the application page times out after being inactive for 35 minutes. You'll still need to account for how individual characters are counted differently between Microsoft Word and the online form.

What do I write about?

When considering what to include in your personal statement, take time to think about the reasons you're applying to university and what makes you a suitable candidate.

To make this work for different courses and universities, you'll need to find some common ground by providing examples of why you'll be a success - demonstrating enthusiasm for the choices you've made and how they fit in with your career ambitions.

You'll need to talk about the relevant skills, experience and achievements you've gained through extra-curricular activities - whether these are sporting, musical or creative.

As well as going through your academic record to date, your personal statement also gives you the opportunity to mention any work experience or volunteering you've undertaken, detailing what you've learned from it. For instance, you may have been involved with the Young Enterprise programme at school and have a better idea of how to manage your money.

It's never too late to show you're actively preparing for higher education. Get involved with an extra-curricular club, secure a part-time job or do some volunteering. You could even complete a free online course in a relevant subject with an organisation such as FutureLearn or the Tech Nation Digital Business Academy .

If you're an international student, you could discuss why the UK is your preferred study destination ahead of universities in your own country. Don't forget to mention the English language tests, courses and qualifications you've taken.

Finally, if there are any personal or financial circumstances that have had a strong bearing on your performance at school or college, you can outline these in this statement.

How do I write a personal statement?

By breaking your personal statement down into sections, you can ensure you cover the most relevant points.

Course-relevant skills and credentials should be given prominence in the overall structure. You can use the course descriptions to help you.

However, as you only have the one personal statement for all your choices, if you've selected a variety of subjects that aren't that similar, you'll need to focus on the transferable skills and common qualities typically valued by universities - for example, creativity or problem-solving.

Adopt a simple, concise and natural style for writing your statement, while still showing enthusiasm. Allow your personality to shine through.

It can often take a number of redrafts until the statement is ready, so allow plenty of time to write it properly, and set yourself a schedule.

Get used to reading your statement aloud and asking for feedback from family, teachers and advisers before redrafting to make sure your writing flows well. You'll also need to check for the correct punctuation, spelling and grammar and not just rely on a spellchecker.

Keep an up-to-date copy of your statement saved so you can refer back to it during the interview process.

How do I start a personal statement?

At this point, think about why you're applying for the course, and how you became interested in it in the first place. Was it through work experience or studying the subject at A-level?

Once you've noted down your reasons for choosing the course, you can move on to your skills and what makes you stand out positively from other applicants, providing evidence of where each attribute has been utilised.

After you've written this down, condense it so it's less wordy. You can then attempt to write a punchy opening paragraph showcasing your excitement at the prospect of going to university, and an understanding of what you're getting yourself into.

Get off to the best start by using the UCAS personal statement builder .

What should I avoid?

  • As you'll only have the one statement, it's important not to mention universities by name - unless you plan on applying to just a single institution.
  • Remember that admissions staff may not share your sense of humour, so steer clear of anything that might get misinterpreted.
  • Refrain from using clichés or making arrogant or exaggerated statements.
  • Resist any temptation to use somebody else's work as your own. The UCAS Similarity Detection Service utilises the Copycatch system, which will compare your statement against those stored within a comprehensive library of statements - those sent to UCAS and elsewhere (including paper publications).
  • Be careful not to ramble. Structuring your work so you know how much space you have for each section will make sticking to your main points much easier.

University personal statement examples

While you can find some examples online - from the likes of Reed.co.uk and King's College London - it's important to use your own words and not copy them directly.

Indeed, the UCAS personal statement worksheet can prove just as useful when it comes to helping you decide what to put in your own personal statement.

You can simply print out this personal statement template and jot down any ideas into the various sections as you think of them.

Find out more

  • Read the full lowdown on how to apply for university .
  • Get tips on preparing for a university interview .
  • For further advice on writing a university personal statement, visit UCAS .
  • Take a look at The Topic for the latest news, insights and opinions.

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How to Write a Personal Statement for University Applications

what is personal statement for university application

Personal Statements: Crafting a Compelling Narrative #

Writing your personal statement can feel like the hardest part of applying for university, so we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you out! From discovering your skills and achievements to avoiding the cliché phrases, we’ve covered it all. 

Use our guide below to complete your personal statement with confidence!

Introduction to Personal Statements #

Definition and Purpose

A personal statement is a piece of writing which accompanies your university application. It allows you to tell the university why you are interested in a particular subject and course. Without personal statements, universities would only know an applicant’s qualifications, not understand much about their interests or ambitions. The maximum length of your personal statement is 47 lines and 4,000 characters.

Significance in University Applications

You need a personal statement in order to apply for universities in the UK. It is a key stage in the application process, which is done through UCAS. You will upload your personal statement during your online UCAS application, under the ‘Personal Statement’ section. From the UCAS website, you can paste your personal statement into the text box to add it to your application. The text box will indicate whether you have exceeded the 47 lines and 4,000 characters limit.

Key Elements of a Standout Personal Statement #

Clear Structure and Flow

Your personal statement should be formatted into paragraphs and read clearly. You can decide how to structure your writing, but you may want to divide each paragraph up into topics. Don’t limit yourself though! You may find your experiences are intertwined or relate to one another, which you should showcase!

Some key questions you need to answer within your personal statement are:

★ Why are you applying for your chosen courses?

★ Why are you interested in your chosen subject?

★ Why will you be great on the course?

★ How do your current studies and experiences relate?

★ How does studying at university promote your career ambitions?

Think about how each of your answers to these questions link together. This will help you to establish a flow of ideas. You want to take the admissions tutor along your journey. This doesn’t need to be chronological, but they need to understand clearly how your experiences as a whole weave together to make you a strong applicant. What led you to make each decision in your experience so far? Perhaps one led to another, or inspired you to seek out opportunities in a particular field of interest.

Showcasing Personal Qualities and Skills

Be confident when writing about your personal qualities and skills. A lot of people find it hard to write about themselves, but the whole point of a personal statement is to talk about yourself! 

Rather than generalising all of your skills, think about which ones will be most utilised in the course you are applying for. If you are unsure, read the course description to figure out what kind of skills they will expect you to have. This way, you can explain how you will develop your skills further throughout the course - starting with your baseline qualities. 

When talking about your skills, give an example of a time when you demonstrated that skill. Anyone can claim they have good communication or research skills, but only those who have experiences can back that claim up! You can use examples from school projects or extracurricular activities - you’d be surprised how transferable your skills are. 

Highlighting Relevant Achievements and Experiences

Before you start, write down everything you think might be relevant for your university personal statement. You will refer to this list consistently when you are writing, so the more you can think of the better. 

If you are struggling to think of examples, reverse the ideas process. When you discuss your reasoning for choosing the course, or career ambitions - what have you done in your life so far which has contributed to those dreams and choices? 

When discussing your achievements in your statement, ask yourself these questions:

★ What did I learn when I was working towards this achievement?

★ What would I do differently in the future? 

★ What skills would I need to develop to improve my achievement?

★ How can I quantify my achievement? How much time and effort was put into it?

★ Why did I choose to work towards this achievement?

By completely understanding and reflecting on your experiences and achievements, you will find writing about them much easier! It is hard to write about something you have never considered before.

Understanding the Dos and Don'ts of Personal Statements #

Tailoring Content to Specific Courses or Institutions

Your personal statement should be tailored to the courses or subject you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for an art course, make sure to discuss your interests and experiences that relate to art, not just any old subject.

You can also edit your personal statement to be relevant for the type of institutions you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for specialised arts universities, or conservatoires, explain why you have made the decision to opt for that institution type. Are you keen to study alongside like-minded students? Or is the university’s close link with industry important for you?

Avoiding Clichés and Generic Phrases

Thousands of students are applying for the same courses as you, so it is key that your personal statement isn’t generic or cliche. 

Here are a couple of overused phrases you can avoid in your writing:

★ “Since I was a child…”

★ “When I was younger…”

★ “For as long as I can remember…”

★ “I am applying to ____ because…”

★ “Throughout my life I have always enjoyed…”

★ “I have always been interested in…”

Try to be innovative with your sentence structure to prevent your statement sounding like everyone else's. 

Make sure to  avoid quotes - this is off-putting for admissions tutors. They want to hear what  you  have to say about your subject interest, not what the most famous artist, engineer or writer said once.

Crafting a Captivating Opening #

Strategies for Engaging Introductions

Some students find it helpful to write their introduction last, as it can feel like the hardest part to write! So once you have written most of the content of your statement, your introduction will feel much easier to tackle. 

Example introduction strategies:

★ Introduce yourself and your passion for the subject

★ What about your subject is inspiring you now? (Not what inspired you as a child)

★ Avoid clichés and quotes from famous people.

★ Share your enthusiasm for the subject

★ Talk about what you want to study and why

★ Be concise and clear about your excitement for the subject

Examples of Successful Opening Lines

★ “Volunteering at a local nursing home for the last 2 years sparked my inspiration to choose psychology…”

★ “My interest in biology is centred around innovations in healthcare, looking after the human body and discovering how cells impact bodily functions…”

★ “Through exploring national parks and documenting my experiences on my personal blog, I discovered my fascination with geography…”

Narrating Work Experience and Future Aspirations #

Connecting Past Experiences to Future Goals

Recalling your past experiences is key to writing a good personal statement, but make sure to link them to future goals. Yes, telling your story so far is important, but you need to consider how attending university will continue your story in a positive way. What skills and knowledge are you looking forward to obtaining at university? How will your course assist you in meeting your goals and getting your dream graduate role?

Articulating Career Ambitions

Universities want to develop students who go on to be trailblazers in their subject-specialisms. Talk about your career aspirations and dreams in your statement, and share how studying at university will push you to achieve them. Do you have a particular job in mind? What motivates you to study and do well in education?

Reinforcing Unique Selling Points #

University admissions tutors will be reading hundreds of personal statements, all attuned to the course subject. You need to tell the university why you are different from all of the other applicants. What is your unique selling point? What will you bring to the course that no other student will? 

To discover your unique selling point, think about your:

★ Personal life experience that has shaped your interest in the course

★ Work experience in a relevant industry

★ Work experience that has transferable skills

★ Successes in your current learning and study, which topics do you outperform in?

★ Extra-curricular activities which are unique to you

If you are struggling to think of something unique in your experiences, ask your friends and family what makes you different from other students. It can be helpful to receive external opinions, as they may see fantastic things in you that you are unaware of.

Mastering the Art of Concluding Your Personal Statement #

Strategies for Memorable Closures

Having a memorable closing section of your personal statement will help the admissions tutor when making the decision of who to offer the course places to. You want to leave the reader on a good note, where they feel confident in your abilities and skills.

There are a couple of ways you can end your personal statement:

★ Share your ambitions and dreams for the future, even beyond university

★ Reiterate previous points for emphasis

★ Talk about how university will develop you as a person

★ What do you hope to bring to your university course?

Drawing Inspiration from Successful Personal Statement Examples #

Tailoring Your Personal Statement to Different Subject Areas

What happens if you are applying for a variety of courses? Writing a personal statement for different courses can feel tricky. Especially if you want to focus on and mention the subjects you are applying for. 

University admissions tutors are aware that some students will be applying for a variety of course subjects, so a personal statement which covers a few topics is not unheard of! Remember you are writing about yourself, not just subjects. Depending on how varied the courses you are applying for are, you should be able to combine your passion for your subjects within your career ambitions and reasons you want to study in higher education. If you can, think of ways that your different course options link together - maybe there are modules within the course that are related to your subject choices. Research each course in depth to find out your specific interests, you may find there are links you can reference to or hone in on.

Subject-Specific Tips for Crafting a Relevant Statement

After writing your personal statement, read it through and decide whether you could guess what subject/s you are applying for. If it feels too generic, research the course descriptions for your universities to discover what you are most excited about studying. 

★ How are you going to enhance your current knowledge of the subject, engage with the learning at university and apply your experience after graduation?

★ How will you bring value to the course as a student?

★ What is it about your subject that fascinates you the most?

Employing Correct Grammar, Tone, and Style in Your Writing

Keep the same tone throughout your personal statement. It can be easy to accidentally change the tense or writing style mid-sentence. Proofread your statement carefully, checking the tense of your word choices and making sure you haven’t started a clause without finishing it! It can be tempting to cut sentences down to meet the character count, but be sure your sentences still make sense after editing.

Personal statements should combine factual and example based experiences with the emotional and aspirational dreams you have. Check that your statement contains a mixture of both, as one without the other can be uninspiring or lack substance.

Ensuring Clarity and Coherence

While using a thesaurus can enhance your writing and keep it fresh, sometimes complicated wording can get in the way of your message. Your statement will gain its strength through the examples and justifications you give for applying to the course, not through the number of fancy words.

Be clear with your wording. Shorter, punchy sentences are better than long sentences which leave the admissions tutor feeling lost or confused. Figure out the most concise and clear way to demonstrate your experiences - some detail is important, but don’t focus too much on one thing. Showcase how varied your interests are, through the variation of your examples.

Adhering to Formal Writing Standards

Your personal statement should be formal, but engaging. You are about to start university, where formal writing is expected in assignments. Show your writing skills now to prove to the admissions tutor that you are competent. Get straight to the point and limit the rambling.

Capturing Admissions Tutors' Attention with Your Personal Statement

Each admissions tutor will have read hundreds of personal statements, so how are you going to make yours stand out? Everyone has different experiences which they can bring to a university application, so focus on what makes  you stand out, rather than copying your friends.

Understanding Admission Criteria

Read the course description and entry requirements thoroughly for all 5 of your course choices. Take notes on the expectations they have for students, and integrate your strengths into your statement. What do the courses expect you to know before starting? Do you have a baseline knowledge of the subject which will enable you to excel in the course?

If there are additional criteria which are not included in your level 3 qualification, be sure to include them in your personal statement. This may include work experience or English language requirements.

Addressing Selection Criteria Effectively

Be clear that you meet the basic criteria for your courses in your writing. Sometimes courses specify that you need to have A-Level subjects or qualifications, even at a certain grade, before joining the course. For example, a maths course may expect you to have completed a maths A-Level. Talk about this in your statement, but expand on it. What have you enjoyed about studying that subject thus far? 

Seeking Feedback and Editing

Ask for feedback! Your school careers advisor or teachers will be able to help you with feedback on your statement. They may be able to spot grammatical errors, or even gaps in your writing. 

You can also ask for editing assistance from your family and friends. Perhaps you have an older sibling who has been to university, that you could ask for advice from. 

One thing to remember is that everyone will offer differing opinions on the best way for you to write your personal statement. It is your job to decide which advice you would like to take on board. This is your personal statement, so you have control over what you submit.

Importance of Proofreading and Revising

Proofread your statement again and again! Read your writing aloud to yourself, to see if it flows well or needs revising. Take into consideration the feedback you have received from your advisors or family members - it's OK to rewrite sections or cut out things you don’t feel are relevant anymore.

Check for spelling mistakes or punctuation errors. When typing, it can be easy to accidentally hit the comma instead of the full stop key, or use an American spelling vs a British spelling. You can use online spelling checkers, but try not to rely too heavily on these. In our experience, you should check your spelling manually too, just to make sure!

Conclusion: Final Considerations for an Outstanding Personal Statement #

Emphasising Originality and Authenticity

Your personal statement should be unique to your experiences. Copying someone else’s statement from the internet is never going to be representative of you.

Seek to be honest and authentic in your statement, the admissions tutors aren’t expecting you to be the expert in your subject yet - that is what going to university is good for! Universities want to take on students who are passionate about their subject, as this improves the learning environment for everyone. So what will you bring to university? 

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The personal statement is a key part of your UCAS application. You have a limited space to tell universities who you are, what you want to do, and why they should accept you. If you give it your best and tackle it step by step it need not be a daunting task.

Before you begin

The personal statement is one of the final sections of your UCAS application. However, you shouldn’t leave it until the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time to write.

  • Your personal statement must be at least 1,000 characters long , including spaces.
  • The maximum length is 4,000 characters or 47 lines, whichever comes first.
  • It’s a good idea to write your statement in a separate document , make all the edits you want, and then copy and paste it into your application.
  • Plan out your structure and key points before you start writing, just like an essay. You can use this page to decide what to include. 

Top tips for writing your statement

Watch the video for a summary of the key advice on how to write your personal statement.

Or use the bullet points below as a checklist when you're writing.

Remember the UCAS Deadline is 31 January 2024.

We look forward to receiving your application, good luck!

Video thumbnail: Watch - tips for writing your personal statement

1. Introduce yourself first

You don't need to start your introduction with “My name is...”, but it’s vital to tell whoever’s reading your application who you are. Start by answering these questions:

  • Why are you interested in studying your subject?
  • What is it about university that appeals to you?
  • Where do you hope a degree will take you?

Include any relevant anecdotes and details about yourself that will make your application stand out. Has someone inspired you to study your chosen subject? Have you always dreamed of a particular career?

2. Tell us about your skills and achievements

You should demonstrate the things you’re good at and provide examples to back it up. Include things like:

  • Any awards you’ve received.
  • Hobbies or activities that build skills.
  • Work experience and what that taught you.
  • Volunteering or projects like Duke of Edinburgh, Step Together, or Young Enterprise.

3. Do some final checks

There are a few dos and don’ts to make sure your personal statement is the best it can possibly be.

  • Do proofread everything. A spellchecker might not pick up on every mistake so make sure your writing makes sense.
  • Don’t mention the names of any specific universities if you’re applying to more than one. They all see the same application.
  • Do have someone else read your statement before you submit it. A teacher or family member could have suggestions.
  • Don’t be tempted to copy someone else’s writing. Your statement should be unique to you and similarities will be caught out.
  • Do bring your best self! If you take the time to really think about your statement, plan it out, and write to the best of your ability, then it’s a job well done.

Head back to our main 'How to Apply' page and remember to send your application before 31 January 2024.

  • Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, and Writing Sample

Details about submitting a statement of purpose, personal statement, and a writing sample as part of your degree program application

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Statement of Purpose 

The statement of purpose is very important to programs when deciding whether to admit a candidate. Your statement should be focused, informative, and convey your research interests and qualifications. You should describe your reasons and motivations for pursuing a graduate degree in your chosen degree program, noting the experiences that shaped your research ambitions, indicating briefly your career objectives, and concisely stating your past work in your intended field of study and in related fields. Your degree program of interest may have specific guidance or requirements for the statement of purpose, so be sure to review the degree program page for more information. Unless otherwise noted, your statement should not exceed 1,000 words. 

Personal Statement

Please describe the personal experiences that led you to pursue graduate education and how these experiences will contribute to the academic environment and/or community in your program or Harvard Griffin GSAS. These may include social and cultural experiences, leadership positions, community engagement, equity and inclusion efforts, other opportunities, or challenges. Your statement should be no longer than 500 words.

Please note that there is no expectation to share detailed sensitive information and you should refrain from including anything that you would not feel at ease sharing. Please also note that the Personal Statement should complement rather than duplicate the content provided in the Statement of Purpose. 

Visit Degree Programs and navigate to your degree program of interest to determine if a Personal Statement is required. The degree program pages will be updated by early September indicating if the Personal Statement is required for your program.

Writing Sample 

Please visit Degree Programs and navigate to your degree program of interest to determine if a writing sample is required. When preparing your writing sample, be sure to follow program requirements, which may include format, topic, or length. 

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Personal Statement for College Application

what is personal statement for university application

By James Crace

James Crace

July 27, 2013

I live by three simple rules. 1. If you do not go after what you want, you will never have it. 2. If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place. 3. If you do not ask, the answer will always be no.

These three rules I learned from UDSAP (University of Dayton Summer Appalachia Program). Every summer since 1964, UD has sent 14 students and 1 Marianist Brother to Salyersville, Kentucky in the heart of Appalachia. Their mission is to form community, grow in faith, and do a service to my county’s community, while constantly living in simplicity. I came to better understand the word simplicity by observing their daily routine — sharing a plain 1920s farmhouse, the garden they raise in the backyard, and lack of cell phones, computers or televisions in the house: they share genuine conversations over cups of tea, community prayers, lake showers, and often admire the unexplainable stars as a perfect night light. UDSAP runs a day camp for our youth at the town park, a teen center at their house, and a program at the local nursing home with bingo and personal visits.

UDSAPers, which is what we call them, can be described with many words including adventurous, understanding, passionate, hospitable, faithful, and many more. UDSAP is a feeling, which makes it hard to describe with words. As a child I learned how to be free and have fun without focusing on my tough home life. As a teen I learned respect, love, and how to open up because they would intently listen. I did not come from a wealthy family; I grew up in a two bedroom trailer with my two sisters, my younger brother, my mother, and my grandfather, who was my main role model after my father left when I was five. I thought for the longest time that surviving on food stamps, disability checks, and odd jobs would be my life forever. UDSAP helped me realize that my potential is bigger than Magoffin County, and I do not have to stay there to be proud of being from there. Most of my encouragement to choose happiness, go after what I want, and chase my dreams came from the UDSAPers rather than my friends and family.

Being nineteen during the summer of 2010 was technically my last summer in teen center. I cringed at the thought of my adventures with UDSAP ending so I intentionally devoted my free time to being a part of each summer after graduating the program. Two weeks into the summer of 2011 the new group asked me to join their community as an honorary UDSAPer, taking part in every program and living with them, which has never happened for any other Salyersville resident. They appointed me as one of the four teen center leaders because I am kind, understanding, persistent, and most importantly I can relate to the often rough and rowdy teens of Salyersville. During teen center meetings I gave insight into what the teens needed the most as far as self-esteem and team-building activities. I made my step forward from a day camper, to a teen, to a teen center leader, learning about these people and about myself along the way. I came to appreciate my own individuality and others’ uniqueness, and I realized the strongest people you meet are the ones who have lived a hard life and can still smile, open up, and be themselves.

During the writing process of this statement, I was reminded, time and again, of a quote from a classic folk song called Wagon Wheel that states, “I ain’t a turnin back to livin that old life no more.” I am ready to live, not just survive.

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what is personal statement for university application

  • Personal History Statement

The Personal History Statement helps reviewers learn more about you as a whole person and as a potential graduate student. This may include relevant details on community service, leadership roles, participation in diverse teams, and significant barriers that you overcame to pursue graduate studies.

The Purdue University graduate application allows applicants to select up to two campuses and/or graduate majors per application.  If you are applying to a 2nd choice program, you are only required to submit one personal history statement with your application. Be sure your personal history statement is is all-inclusive, and supports your suitability for your enrollment in all the graduate programs listed on your application. 

Required of all applicants:

  • Describe how your background and life experiences contribute to your ability to be both persistent and resourceful in your graduate studies.
  • Describe how your life experiences have prepared you to contribute to an academic community where scholars with diverse research interests, abilities, backgrounds, and experiences are supported, respected, and valued.
  • Please address concerns that you may have that your academic record does not reflect your true capabilities and discuss mitigating factors that have affected your academic record. Reviewers will be interested in understanding your accomplishments relative to your opportunities.

The Academic Statement of Purpose and the Personal History Statement are two of the most important documents in your graduate application. The documents should be concise, clear, and free of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. You should have others review your document for content, organization, and to ensure that there are no errors. Information in the Personal History Statement should complement but not duplicate information in the Academic Statement of Purpose.

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How to Write a Personal Statement For a Master of Public Health Program

In the competitive landscape of graduate admissions, a well-crafted statement of purpose can be the differentiating factor that sets you apart from other applicants. Particularly for Master of Public Health (MPH) programs , where candidates often possess similar academic backgrounds and experiences, your personal statement serves as a crucial opportunity to showcase your unique qualities, motivations, and aspirations. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the essential steps and invaluable tips for crafting a standout personal statement that captivates admissions committees and maximizes your chances of acceptance into your desired MPH program.

The Purpose of a Public Health Personal Statement

Before diving into the intricacies of crafting a personal statement, it’s essential to understand its fundamental purpose. A personal statement is not merely a summary of academic achievements and professional experiences, but rather, a narrative that provides insights into a student’s motivations, goals, values, and suitability for the MPH program. 

Admissions committees seek candidates who demonstrate a genuine passion for public health, critical thinking skills, leadership potential, and a clear vision for how they intend to leverage their MPH degree to make a meaningful impact in the field.

How to Write an MPH Statement of Purpose

Step 1: reflect on your motivations and goals.

The first step in writing a strong personal statement is introspection. Take the time to reflect on your journey thus far, the experiences that have shaped your interest in public health, and the specific goals you hope to achieve through pursuing an MPH degree. Consider questions such as:

  • How do you envision your career evolving after completing the MPH program?
  • What personal or professional experiences have influenced your decision to pursue this field?
  • What sparked your interest in public health?
  • What specific issues or challenges within public health are you passionate about addressing?

Step 2: Research Your Target Program

Each specific MPH program is unique, with its own mission, values, curriculum, and areas of specialization. Conduct thorough research on the MPH programs to which you intend to apply. Familiarize yourself with the program’s faculty and public health professionals, research initiatives, community partnerships, and any other distinguishing features. 

Tailor your personal statement to demonstrate alignment between your interests, goals, and the offerings of the program. Highlight specific aspects of the program that resonate with you and explain why you believe it is the ideal fit for your academic and professional aspirations. Whether you’re most interested in public health research, promoting health awareness in the community, or another aspect of public health, share this in your personal statement.

Step 3: Structure Your Personal Statement

A well-organized personal statement should have a clear structure that guides the reader through your narrative. Consider the following outline:

  • Introduction: Start with a compelling opening that grabs the reader’s attention and introduces the central theme of your personal statement.
  • Background and Motivation: Provide context for your interest in public health and health promotion and share relevant experiences that have shaped your journey.
  • Academic and Professional Experiences: Highlight your academic achievements, relevant coursework, internships, research projects, and professional experiences that demonstrate your preparedness for graduate study in public health.
  • Why This Program?: Discuss why you are specifically interested in the MPH program to which you are applying, emphasizing its strengths and how they align with your goals.
  • Career Goals and Aspirations: Articulate your long-term career goals and how obtaining an MPH degree will help you achieve them.
  • Conclusion: Summarize your key points, reiterate your enthusiasm for the program, and leave a lasting impression on the public health leaders reading your personal statement.

Step 4: Showcase Your Unique Qualities

An effective personal statement showcases your unique qualities, perspectives, and experiences. Avoid clichés and generic statements, and instead, focus on conveying your authentic voice and personality. 

Share personal anecdotes, knowledge gained, challenges you’ve overcome, and lessons you’ve learned that illustrate your resilience, adaptability, and commitment to public health. Emphasize your strengths, such as critical thinking skills, teamwork, communication abilities, and cultural competence, and provide concrete examples to support your claims.

Step 5: Edit and Revise

Once you’ve drafted your personal statement, take the time to edit and revise it meticulously. Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, spelling errors, and overall clarity. Ensure the writing is concise, coherent, and flows smoothly from one paragraph to the next. Consider seeking feedback from trusted mentors, professors, or peers who can provide constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement. Revise your personal statement multiple times until you are confident it effectively conveys your message and shares a compelling narrative.

Writing a compelling personal statement for an MPH program requires introspection, research, careful planning, and effective communication skills. By following the steps outlined in this guide and utilizing the provided template, you can create a personal statement that resonates with admissions committees and enhances your chances of securing admission to your desired program. 

Remember to convey your passion for public health, highlight your unique qualities and experiences, and demonstrate how obtaining an MPH degree will enable you to make a meaningful impact in the field.

Valparaiso University’s Master of Public Health Program

Valpo offers a master of public health to empower you with the essential skills to tackle the most pressing health issues across the globe. Whether delving into scientific investigations, working in the community, or advocating for legislative change, working in public health drives a positive impact. 

Our program provides students with a small and personalized learning experience with a 15:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Additionally, graduates of our MPH program have a 100% job placement rate. The expert faculty takes an interdisciplinary approach in the MPH program and emphasizes hands-on experience through internships, research, and community engagement. With an MPH, you open the doors to a plethora of rewarding career opportunities .

Don’t wait to advance your career and knowledge in public health. Apply today or speak with an admissions specialist .

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How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement 2024

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How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement 2024

Master Your UCAS Personal Statement

Writing a UCAS personal statement is a crucial step in the university application process in the UK. It provides an opportunity to showcase your passion, skills, and suitability for your chosen course. In this guide, we'll explain what the UCAS personal statement is, how to write it and provide examples for different courses.

What is the UCAS Personal Statement?

The UCAS personal statement is a written document that applicants submit as part of their university application through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS ). It allows students to express their interest in the course they are applying for and to highlight their qualifications, experiences, and personal qualities. The goal is to convince admissions tutors that you are a good fit for their program. 

A Quick Step-By-Step Guide on How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement

Here are some simple steps to writing the UCAS personal statement structure. 

  • Understand the Requirements : Know the UCAS personal statement length and structure. It should be no more than 4,000 characters or 47 lines.
  • Research Your Course : Understand what the course requires and what skills and experiences are relevant.
  • Brainstorm Ideas : List your achievements, experiences, and skills that relate to the course.
  • Create a Structure : A typical structure includes an introduction, academic background, relevant experiences, personal qualities, and a conclusion.
  • Write a Draft : Begin writing your statement, making sure to cover all the key points.
  • Seek Feedback : Ask teachers, friends, or family to review your statement.
  • Revise and Edit : Refine your statement to ensure clarity, conciseness, and relevance.
  • Proofread : Check for any grammatical or spelling errors. For more UCAS tips and guidance . 

How is the UCAS Personal Statement Different from the US Personal Statement?

Think they’re the same? Think again. Here are some key differences between the UCAS and the US personal statement:

  • Focus : When you apply to UK schools, you’re applying to one particular degree program, which you’ll study for all, or almost all, your time at university. Your UCAS personal statement should focus less on cool/fun/quirky aspects of yourself and more on how you’ve prepared for your particular area of study.
  • Audience : The UCAS personal statement will be read by someone looking for proof that you are academically capable of studying that subject for your entire degree. In some cases, it might be an actual professor reading your essay.
  • Single Statement : You’ll only write one personal statement, which will be sent to all the universities you’re applying to, and it’s unlikely you’ll be sending any additional (supplemental) essays. Your essay needs to explain why you enjoy and are good at this subject without reference to any particular university or type of university.
  • Extracurricular Activities : Any extracurricular activities that are NOT connected to the subject you’re applying for are mostly irrelevant unless they illustrate relevant points about your study skills or attributes. For example, having a job outside of school shows time management and people skills, or leading a sports team shows leadership and responsibility.
  • Academic Focus : Your UCAS personal statement will mostly focus on what you’ve done at high school, in class, and often in preparation for external exams. 80-90% of the content will be academic. Worried about what would happen if you apply late for UCAS? Don’t worry, here’s a comprehensive guide on navigating late UCAS applications . 

UCAS Personal Statement Examples

There are different types of UCAS personal statements. Let's look at some examples: 

UCAS Personal Statement Example for Chemistry

Your UCAS Personal Statement for Chemistry could look something like this: 

“From a young age, I've been fascinated by the complexities of chemistry, especially how substances interact at a molecular level. This passion ignited during simple experiments in my school lab, where I discovered my love for uncovering scientific truths through hands-on experimentation. Throughout my education, I've excelled in chemistry, achieving top grades in both theoretical concepts and practical applications. Studying topics like chemical bonding and reaction kinetics has deepened my interest in pursuing a career in chemistry. Last summer, I interned at a local pharmaceutical research lab, conducting experiments to analyse drug formulations and learning about quality control processes. This experience not only enhanced my laboratory skills but also reinforced my desire to contribute to scientific advancements. Attention to detail, critical thinking, and perseverance are qualities that define my approach to scientific inquiry. I am eager to study chemistry at university to explore my interests in organic synthesis and materials science, aiming to contribute to solving real-world problems and advancing our understanding of chemical phenomena.”

UCAS Personal Statement Example for Veterinary Medicine

Your UCAS Personal Statement for Veterinary Medicine could look something like this: 

“Growing up on a farm surrounded by animals, I developed a deep admiration for the resilience and companionship they offer. This early exposure sparked my ambition to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, where I can combine my love for animals with my passion for healthcare. Excelling in biology and chemistry has provided me with a solid academic foundation essential for understanding animal physiology and pharmacology. Studying topics like anatomy and disease pathology has prepared me to tackle the complexities of veterinary science. Volunteering at a local veterinary clinic has been instrumental in shaping my practical skills and understanding of veterinary care. Assisting veterinarians during surgeries and consultations has allowed me to witness firsthand the impact of compassionate care on animal health. Compassion, empathy, and a strong work ethic are qualities that drive my commitment to veterinary medicine. I am dedicated to pursuing veterinary medicine at university to become a knowledgeable and compassionate veterinarian, eager to contribute to the well-being of animals and make a positive difference in their lives and the community.”

UCAS Personal Statement Example for Aeronautical Engineering

Your UCAS Personal Statement for Aeronautical Engineering could look something like this: 

“My fascination with aviation began with my first flight, where I marvelled at the engineering marvels that enable humans to defy gravity. This experience ignited my passion for aeronautical engineering, driving my ambition to contribute to the innovation and safety of air travel. Excelling in mathematics and physics has equipped me with the analytical and problem-solving skills crucial for aeronautical engineering. Studying topics like fluid mechanics and aerodynamics has deepened my understanding of flight principles and aircraft design. Participating in a STEM club at school allowed me to collaborate on projects like building model aeroplanes and conducting experiments on flight dynamics. These experiences have strengthened my practical skills and ignited my curiosity for exploring aerospace technologies. Innovative thinking, attention to detail, and teamwork are qualities that define my approach to engineering challenges. I am eager to pursue aeronautical engineering at the university to engage in cutting-edge research and development, aiming to contribute to advancements in aircraft design and propulsion systems, ultimately shaping the future of aviation technology.”

UCAS Personal Statement Example for Economics and Social Policy

Your UCAS Personal Statement for Economics and Social Policy could look something like this: 

“My interest in economics and social policy stems from my curiosity about the economic forces that shape societal well-being and equality. Exploring these disciplines has fueled my ambition to contribute to evidence-based policy-making and social change. Excelling in economics and social studies has provided me with a comprehensive understanding of economic theories and their impact on social welfare. Analysing topics like income inequality and public policy has prepared me to address contemporary socio-economic challenges. Active involvement in a youth parliament organisation has honed my leadership and advocacy skills. Through debates and policy discussions, I've learned to articulate complex issues and propose solutions that prioritise social justice and community empowerment. Critical thinking, empathy, and a commitment to social justice are qualities that drive my engagement in economics and social policy. I am eager to pursue economics and social policy at university to deepen my understanding of global economic trends and social dynamics. I aspire to contribute to policy initiatives that promote inclusive growth and enhance societal well-being.”

UCAS Personal Statement Example for History of Art & Philosophy

Your UCAS Personal Statement for History of Art & Philosophy could look something like this: 

“Art and philosophy have profoundly influenced my perspective on human expression and cultural identity. Exploring the historical context and philosophical underpinnings of artistic movements has ignited my passion for understanding the interconnectedness of art and society. Pursuing coursework in art history and philosophy has enriched my appreciation for aesthetic principles and philosophical inquiry. Analysing artworks and philosophical texts has deepened my understanding of how art shapes and reflects societal values. Regular visits to museums and galleries have provided me with firsthand encounters with diverse artistic traditions and critical perspectives. These experiences have inspired me to explore the intersections of art history and philosophical discourse in my academic pursuits. Reflective introspection, curiosity, and a dedication to interdisciplinary learning define my approach to studying the history of art and philosophy. I am eager to immerse myself in the study of the history of art and philosophy at the university, aiming to contribute to scholarly discourse and deepen my understanding of human creativity and intellectual inquiry.”

UCAS Personal Statement Example for Liberal Arts

Your UCAS Personal Statement for Liberal Arts could look something like this: 

“The interdisciplinary nature of liberal arts resonates deeply with my diverse academic interests and intellectual curiosity. Exploring literature, history, and social sciences through an integrated approach has shaped my holistic understanding of human culture and societal dynamics. Excelling in literature, history, and social sciences has provided me with a comprehensive foundation in liberal arts education. Engaging with diverse perspectives and methodologies has fostered my appreciation for interdisciplinary learning and critical thinking. Active participation in cultural clubs and community service initiatives has broadened my perspective and enhanced my leadership skills. These experiences underscore the importance of civic engagement and global awareness in my liberal arts education. Adaptability, enthusiasm for learning, and a commitment to fostering inclusive communities define my approach to liberal arts education. I am excited about pursuing a liberal arts program at the university to deepen my knowledge across disciplines and cultivate a well-rounded perspective. I look forward to embracing new intellectual challenges and contributing to a diverse and vibrant academic community.”

Crafting a compelling UCAS personal statement is crucial for your university application. By understanding its purpose, following a structured approach, and reviewing examples for various disciplines, you can effectively showcase your passion and skills. Be genuine, concise, and reflective in your writing. With careful preparation, your statement can capture the attention of admissions tutors and pave the way for your academic future. Check out some of the UCAS courses and universities for more information.  If you want to know more about the UCAS extra , we've got you covered! Good luck! 

Frequently Asked Questions

What do i write in my ucas personal statement, is the ucas personal statement 4000 characters with or without spaces, can you go over 47 lines for the ucas personal statement, what should you avoid in a ucas personal statement, how to write a ucas personal statement.

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  • Filling in your application
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  • How to write a personal statement that works for multiple courses
  • How To Write Your Undergraduate Personal Statement
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  • How to start a personal statement: The attention grabber
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  • Introducing the personal statement tool
  • What to include in a personal statement
  • Using AI and ChatGPT to help you with your personal statement
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  • Carers, estranged students, refugees, asylum seekers, and those with limited leave to remain
  • Personal statement guides
  • References for mature students

Shona Barrie – Director of Admissions, University of Stirling

UCAS asked admissions tutors – the people who read and score your personal statement – for their advice on what you should and shouldn’t do when writing your personal statement. 

The most common piece of advice was not to worry about it – and don’t be tempted to copy anyone else’s.

Read our step-by-step guide to writing your personal statement

Then follow our simple tips below.

  • Do talk about why you’re a good candidate – talk about you, your motivations and what brings you to this course.
  • Do be enthusiastic – if you show you’re interested in the course, it may help you get a place.
  • Do make it relevant . Connect what you’re saying with the course and with your experiences.
  • Do outline your ideas clearly .
  • Do avoid the negatives – highlight the positives about you, and show you know your strengths.
  • Do expect to produce several drafts of your personal statement before being totally happy with it.
  • Do ask people you trust for their feedback.
  • Don’t be modest or shy . You want your passions to come across. 
  • Don’t exaggerate – if you do, you may get caught out in an interview when asked to elaborate on an interesting achievement.
  • Don’t use quotes from someone else, or cliches.
  • Don’t leave it to the last minute – your statement will seem rushed and important information could be left out.
  • Don’t let spelling and grammatical errors spoil your statement , but don't just rely on a spellchecker. Proofread as many times as possible.
  • Don’t copy and paste – make yours original.
  • Don’t post your personal statement on the internet or on social media or share your personal statement with anyone including your friends and family, unless asking for feedback from people you trust.
  • Don’t worry about it – we have all the advice you need to help you stand out in your personal statement. 

The personal statement tool image

Don’t be tempted to copy or share your statement.

UCAS scans all personal statements through a similarity detection system to compare them with previous statements.

Any similarity greater than 30% will be flagged and we'll inform the universities and colleges to which you have applied. 

Find out more

Ana ghaffari moghaddam – third year law student and careers coach, university of liverpool.

You’ve got this. Follow those simple steps and use your personal statement as your chance to shine .Use the below as a checklist to make sure you've avoided all common pitfalls.

Want more tips on what to include in your personal statement? Use the links below.

  • Get started with our personal statement builder . 
  • Five things all students should include in their personal statement. 
  • See how you can turn your personal statement into a CV, apprenticeship application or covering letter. 
  • Read How to start a personal statement: The attention grabber .

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Personal Statement

    A personal statement—sometimes known as a college essay—is a brief written essay you submit with other materials when applying to college or university. Personal statements tend to be most common for undergraduate applications, and they're a great opportunity for an admissions committee to hear your voice directly.

  2. Personal Statement Tips for College and University Applications

    The Free Guide to Writing the Personal Statement. Kick things off with the two greatest brainstorming exercises ever, learn about options for structuring a personal statement + example outlines, check out some amazing example personal statements, and get on your way to writing your own killer personal statement for university applications.

  3. What Is a Personal Statement? Everything You Need to Know About the

    Personal statement —an essay you write to show a college admissions committee who you are and why you deserve to be admitted to their school. It's worth noting that, unlike "college essay," this term is used for application essays for graduate school as well. College essay —basically the same as a personal statement (I'll be using the terms ...

  4. How to Write an Amazing Personal Statement (Includes Examples!)

    5. Use an authentic voice. Your personal statement reflects who you are, so you should use a tone that represents you. That means you shouldn't try to sound like someone else, and you shouldn't use fancy words just to show off. This isn't an academic paper, so you don't have to adopt a super formal tone.

  5. Personal Statement Format + Examples

    Fortunately, colleges and application systems usually give you specific personal statement word counts. The Common Application and Coalition Application, which are the most prevalent applications, will give you a word count of 650 words for your main personal statement, but will usually give a smaller word count for school-specific supplemental ...

  6. How to Write a Personal Statement (Tips + Essay Examples)

    In a great personal statement, we should be able to get a sense of what fulfills, motivates, or excites the author. These can be things like humor, beauty, community, and autonomy, just to name a few. So when you read back through your essay, you should be able to detect at least 4-5 different values throughout.

  7. How to Write Your Personal Statement

    A personal statement is a short essay of around 500-1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you're applying. To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application, don't just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to ...

  8. Personal Statement Examples

    What's more, a good personal statement for a university should be well-written. Consider the advice offered by Purdue Online Writing Lab: "Be specific, write well and correctly, and avoid cliches." This will take time—writing a good personal statement for a university or a good Common App essay doesn't happen overnight.

  9. How To Write Your Undergraduate Personal Statement

    Using your personal statement beyond a university application; Carers, estranged students, refugees, asylum seekers, and those with limited leave to remain; ... An undergraduate personal statement is a chance to get noticed for the unique talents and experiences you have. It's an important part of the application process as it's an ...

  10. How to write an excellent personal statement in 10 steps

    Use your closing couple of lines to summarise the most important points in your statement. 9. Check your writing thoroughly and get someone else to check it, too. 10. Give your brain a rest by forgetting about your personal statement for a while before going back to review it one last time with fresh eyes.

  11. How to Write a Personal Statement That Wows Colleges

    2. Show, don't tell. One of the biggest mistakes students make is to simply state everything that happened, instead of actually bringing the reader to the moment it happened, and telling a story. It's boring to read: "I was overjoyed and felt empowered when I finished my first half marathon.".

  12. 500+ Personal Statement Examples

    Nail your uni application with our personal statement examples! Discover personal statements by subject, from A to Z. Find inspiration for your own application with these successful personal statement examples from real students. View Categories Search Courses.

  13. How to write a personal statement

    1. Before you start. The academic work is the most important reason why we're here, but that also translates into work experiences, internships, volunteering. I think a big part of the personal statement is crafting that narrative of academic self that fits alongside your professional experiences, to give that greater picture of who you are ...

  14. Writing your personal statement

    How to write a personal statement for a conservatoire. The personal statement is your opportunity to talk about you, and why you want to enrol on a particular course. You should describe the ambitions, skills, and experience that'll make you suitable for the course.

  15. What to include in a personal statement

    Summary. We've talked about the five things every personal statement should include and how you should approach writing it. You may have noticed a big part of writing a great personal statement is your openness to recognising your strengths and sharing that in writing. The five things every student should include on their personal statement.

  16. Personal statements for university applications

    UCAS recommends that you write your personal statement in Microsoft Word before copying and pasting it into the online application form. This is because the application page times out after being inactive for 35 minutes. You'll still need to account for how individual characters are counted differently between Microsoft Word and the online form.

  17. 10 Tips for Writing a Personal Statement for University Applications

    The personal statement is a crucial part of university applications in the UK. It's your chance to show what makes you unique, besides your birth name and UCAS ID. In just 4,000 characters you have to convince your chosen university that you are the best applicant, and that they should make you an offer immediately.

  18. How to Write a Personal Statement for University

    1. Understand the requirements. The first step toward writing a great personal statement is understanding what admissions officers will be looking for when they review your application — and that varies from university to university and course to course. Check the specific admissions requirements for the course and university you're ...

  19. How to Write a Personal Statement for University Applications

    A personal statement is a piece of writing which accompanies your university application. It allows you to tell the university why you are interested in a particular subject and course. Without personal statements, universities would only know an applicant's qualifications, not understand much about their interests or ambitions.

  20. 12 Outstanding Personal Statement Examples + Why They Work 2024

    If you're applying to college, you'll most likely need to write a personal statement as part of your college application. (And please note that the personal statement examples below are for undergraduate applications—if you're trying to find grad school statement of purpose examples, please head to that link.). But before diving into analyzing some great personal statement examples, it ...

  21. 10 Best Personal Statement Essay Examples

    A personal statement essay allows you to show your qualities, experiences, and aspirations to admissions committees. It provides insights into your personality, motivations, and potential contributions to their program. How long should a personal statement essay be? Most colleges have specific guidelines regarding essay length. Generally ...

  22. Writing your Personal Statement

    Before you begin. The personal statement is one of the final sections of your UCAS application. However, you shouldn't leave it until the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time to write. Your personal statement must be at least 1,000 characters long, including spaces.; The maximum length is 4,000 characters or 47 lines, whichever comes first.; It's a good idea to write your statement in ...

  23. Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, and Writing Sample

    Please also note that the Personal Statement should complement rather than duplicate the content provided in the Statement of Purpose. Visit Degree Programs and navigate to your degree program of interest to determine if a Personal Statement is required. The degree program pages will be updated by early September indicating if the Personal ...

  24. Personal Statement for College Application : University of Dayton, Ohio

    Personal Statement for College Application. By James Crace. James Crace. July 27, 2013. ... (University of Dayton Summer Appalachia Program). Every summer since 1964, UD has sent 14 students and 1 Marianist Brother to Salyersville, Kentucky in the heart of Appalachia. Their mission is to form community, grow in faith, and do a service to my ...

  25. Admission Requirements

    Personal Statement. The personal statement should describe the reasons for pursuing graduate study, career aspirations, special interests within the field, and any unusual background features that might need explanation or of interest to the program's admission committee.

  26. Personal History Statement

    The Academic Statement of Purpose and the Personal History Statement are two of the most important documents in your graduate application. The documents should be concise, clear, and free of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. You should have others review your document for content, organization, and to ensure that there are no errors.

  27. Write a Personal Statement For a Master of Public Health Program

    In the competitive landscape of graduate admissions, a well-crafted statement of purpose can be the differentiating factor that sets you apart from other applicants. Particularly for Master of Public Health (MPH) programs, where candidates often possess similar academic backgrounds and experiences, your personal statement serves as a crucial opportunity to showcase your unique qualities ...

  28. How to start a personal statement: The attention grabber

    Top tips on how to write your statement opener. We spoke to admissions tutors at unis and colleges - read on for their tips. 1. Don't begin with the overkill opening. Try not to overthink the opening sentence. You need to engage the reader with your relevant thoughts and ideas, but not go overboard. Tutors said: 'The opening is your chance ...

  29. How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement 2024

    The UCAS personal statement is a written document that applicants submit as part of their university application through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). It allows students to express their interest in the course they are applying for and to highlight their qualifications, experiences, and personal qualities.

  30. Personal statement dos and don'ts

    Don'ts. Don't be modest or shy. You want your passions to come across. Don't exaggerate - if you do, you may get caught out in an interview when asked to elaborate on an interesting achievement. Don't use quotes from someone else, or cliches. Don't leave it to the last minute - your statement will seem rushed and important ...